Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shepard Fairey Ruined Art



“It’s gonna be fucking rad,” she said, screaming into her cell phone. “Reception is shitty up here, sorry.” Drawing from a Bud Light tall, she paused to listen.

Wearing Ugg boots, ski pants and a t-shirt, she stood in the back of a pickup truck, leaning against the cab. Parked in the farthest corner of a muddy parking lot, she had a perfect view of the Leland Meadows Snow Park, a park specifically for tubing and sledding. And for children.

Opening the hatch of my mini-van, I shot her a long gaze. I was with two 6 year olds and I wanted to let her now that I disapproved and loathed her. Our eyes didn’t meet.

I got the two 6 year olds out of their skiwear and into dry clothes. Imploring them to let me do the same, I sat on the hatch, wiggling out of my snow pants. The back of the min-van was strewn with articles of warm clothing and discarded chip bags from the ride up. She continued to scream into her cell.

“It’ll be fucking rad,” I was gathering she was fond of this phrase, “we’re gonna go to Frisco and stay at the Hotel des Arts.” This pricked my ears. Just the idea that she was going to San Francisco - and calling it Frisco - bugged me. “We were gonna stay outside of Frisco, but we said fuck it. We booked the Sheppard Fairey room. You know, Obey.”

The Hotel des Arts is a small art themed hotel in downtown San Francisco. All rooms are designed by local artists, including a collaboration by Fairey and another artist.

She didn’t look like the art type. I pegged her as someone that lived in the rural suburbs of Sacramento, listened to country music or indie metal and dabbled in speed and ecstasy. She probably smoked Marlboro lights and drank Diet Coke. This was an easy assessment, given that she was an adult without children at a children’s snow park; she was drinking beer in a muddy parking lot in the back of a pickup truck and she was wearing Ugg boots, a personal bias.

By mentioning Fairey, we shared common ground, albeit a very, very tiny parcel. I found myself being protective of him and dismayed that a “woman like this” knew about an artist like Fairey. It was completely irrational. I had no cultural ownership over Fairey or art.

Why did I feel this way?

Despite his success in the past years (Obama!!), Fairey retained his punk DIY credentials. At his last show in the City at Whitewalls, when buying his propaganda art for 20k entailed a waiting list of 200+ people, Fairey could’ve attended the opening, drank a few PBRs with the beard set before taking 50% of the proceeds. He didn’t do that. Instead, he arrived a week early and wheat pasted the city with posters of work from the show, risking jail time and hefty fines. Even though the Obey brand is a close second to Ed Hardy in douchebag wear, and most fine artists would agree that Fairey (and Banksy!!) ruined art, Fairey is the goddamn Ian MacKaye of the art world and I respect him for it.


“Yeah, everybody’s coming.” She continued. “I’ve been working my ass off. I should have 10 pieces in the show, but I’m only giving them 9 because I can't part with one of them. It’s totally fuckin’ rad” She paused, waiting for the other person to ask her about the prized art. “I’m in love with the Radiohead piece. I’m gonna hang it above the mantel.”

Before she finished, I grabbed my iPhone from my pocket and clandestinely filmed her. A friend of hers with a scraggly beard approached the truck and asked her where she’d been. She replied, “I hurt my fucking back.”

I grabbed my phone and erased the video. She popped another beer. We left. It was fuckin’ rad.

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