August 4-10 1995
A giant posse
OG stickerUnless you’ve been living in a closet for the past few years, chances are you’re familiar with a certain 2-1/2-inch-square sticker bearing the likeness of pro wrestling’s deceased behemoth obey giant and the slogan “Andre the Giant Has a Posse.” The stickers have been spotted on buildings, telephone poles, and almost any public surface imaginable around Boston and beyond. Rumor has it that one even made its way to Jim Morrison’s graffiti-smeared shrine at the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
So who or what is behind this mysterious stickering campaign and why Andre?
“It started off as a joke,” admits Shepard Fairey, the sticker’s mastermind. Fairey, a RISD graduate who runs a silkscreening studio in Providence says he came across a photo of Andre while teaching a friend to make cut-paper stencils. Having been a part of skateboard culture, where cliques or “posses”,” are a dominant force Fairey settled on a prank of sorts.
“It was a way to make fun of having a posse,” he explains. “It became an anti-posse. How people interpreted it was a reflection of their personality – it was a kind of a Korschach test.”
The stickering took off in 1990, when Buddy Cianci was running for mayor of Providence, Fairey covered a campaign billboard with an eight-foot image of Andre. Local news media hyped the escapade as a reference to scandal surrounding Cianci, who had been kicked out of office for assaulting his ex-wife’s lover. “They thought I was implying that Cianci was a brute, like Andre,” says Fairey. “Andre’s Posse” has spread an estimated 450,000 stickers worldwide. Fairey has also produced Andre posters and T-shirts, as well as a related skateboarding film called Attention Deficiency Disorder. A documentary by Helen Stickler about Fairey’s Andre exploits took second place at the 1995 New York Underground Film Festival.
“The reason Andre works,” Fairey concludes. “is that it has no agenda. And who decided that public spaces were more attractive without any visual noise? All I’ve tried to do is -like Warhol -make the run of the mill into an icon.”
– Catherine A. Salmons