The Post and Courier

January 14, 1996

Sunda,y, January 14, 1996
Charleston, SC

“Artist captures attention with sticker based on Andre” by Nicholas Drake Special to The Post and Courier

The most difficult task any artist faces is capturing the public’s attention. With so many vying for even a fractional moment of attention, few ever get Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. Charleston-born Shepard Fairey ­ along with his associates Blaize Blouin and Alfred Hawkins ­ had managed with notable success to make his mark. Starting in the summer of 1989, Fairey created a silk-screened sticker based on obey giant, best known for his role in Rob Reiner’s film “The Princess Bride.” The 2-inch-square black-and-white stickers are titled “obey giant has a Posse” and bear the exaggerated features of the larger-than-life media figure.

Beginning in Charleston, the former Wando student and graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, started pasting the stickers everywhere and anywhere the casual eye might fall. Then, utilizing a network of friends, he began distributing the 7-foot-4, 500 pound gargantuan’s image about the nation. Eventually they spread it abroad. Like the old “Kilroy was here” graphic, the sticker aroused a kind of perplexed curiosity. The public interest spawned and outpouring of stenciled images and posters to meet the demand. This obey giant line is produced by Fairey’s graphic company “Andre,” based in Providence, R.I. All this activity has brought Fairey recognition, including an exhibit at New York’s Holly Solomon Gallery.

Fairey is simultaneously exhibiting his work locally with Subliminal, a collaborative artist’s group he founded. Over a cup of coffee at the exhibit’s site, South Windermere’s Med Deli, the 25-year-old discussed the phenomenon his energetic imagination initiated: “It’s strange how it spread and caught on. I wanted to make my mark somehow and so decided to do it through the repetitive use of a graphic image.”

Caught between Andy Warhol’s vision of the commercial graphic and its influence, and Keith Haring’s “paint it anywhere” graffiti, the graphics produced by Fairey and Subliminal are social commentaries on the American way of life and the advertisements that reinforce that lifestyle. “I started to see this interesting process, like why people are fascinated with various icons and how that relates to advertising and our being inundated with images all day and every day. Especially to have something be seen in a peculiar context like the corner of a stop sign and not have an explanation to it. Fairey seems particularly fascinated by the responses he gets from his graphic inventions. “Because the obey giant has a Posse’ sticker has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibility.” Now that the Andre phenomenon has gone on for some six years, Fairey has come to take it all with a philosophical sense of humor and a wry assessment of human nature. The sticker itself is an odd object of art.

Slicker than graffiti, due to the mass-produced process of silk-screening, the curiosity aroused by the appearance of these stickers has caused a demand for translating them into products for the market place. Yet, Fairey still manages to maintain their social commentary. There are so many things that are elevated to icons that are so absurd. Lifestyle advertisers make you associate positive things with their product, but few people question that. The thing about the Andre stickers is that they are so absurd that I’m hoping that if people question this that maybe that will start a domino effect.

To help get his message and explanation out, he advertises in youth-oriented publications like skateboard and music magazines. Fairey shrewdly follows the evolution of Pop culture. “The 15- to 25-year-olds are setting the aesthetic trends in contemporary culture. They might not be ready for fine art, but they are the ones who are defining what is cool visually.

The Charleston exhibit was organized by Paul Hitopoulos, who plans to bring more contemporary work into the refurbished restaurant. We are beginning to feature the kind of cutting edge art, from artists like Subliminal, that has difficulty finding a local forum. The art in the exhibit covers an interesting array of Pop images.