TIME Magazine

July 09, 2001

JULY 9, 2001, VOL.158 NO.1
obey giant lives Ads Infinitum

George Orwell taught us to beware of the sign on the wall reading: “Obey.” It’s best to get used to the idea. Way back in 1989, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate named Shepard Fairey started putting obscure stickers on buildings to promote a skateboard gang. They got attention and Fairey, inspired, kept slapping them up as a kind of mass psychology test: What does the average person make of a public sign that is, essentially, meaningless? The posters, stickers and spray-painted designs often bear the image of the late World Wrestling Federation star obey giant, and the San Diego-based artist encourages like-minded urban guerrillas to join him in spreading a message with no message. The result: “Obey” signs in cities almost everywhere, including Tokyo and Hong Kong. Now, this global in-joke is becoming a lot less subversive and probably more ubiquitous: Fairey has launched an Obey clothing line and there’s plenty of obey giant merchandise out there. Buyer—Obey!