Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shepard Fairey: “Hope” For Street Art

Written by Jocelyn Saucedo

Shepard Fairey shook up the world of American politics in 2008. Internationally recognised for designing the iconic Barack Obama poster "Hope," Fairey originally found his place in street art. Long before creating the image that led Barack Obama's presidential campaign, he launched his art career by publicizing his drawings on t-shirts and skateboards. After studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, he developed his “Obey” Campaign with his drawing of Andre the Giant.

From Street Art to the National Portrait Gallery

Caught between his origins in street art and having his work displayed in Washington D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery, Shepard Fairey straddles a line that few cross. He admits that “it’s not like when people walk into a gallery and say, ‘I know this piece is supposed to be good because it’s in a gallery, so I’ll just go along with the idea that it’s brilliant and wonderful.’ On the street, people aren’t bashful. They will say if they like something or if they think it sucks.”

Free Speech and Commercialization

Over-commercialization seems to be the great divide between street art and modern art for Fairey. He has garnered criticism for accepting commissions from large corporations, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, and for commercializing his “Obey” Campaign through a clothing line. Some find it ironic that his work evokes themes of free speech, while companies often hire him to create consumer campaigns. Others, however, believe it is fine for street art and artists to be accessible to consumers, even if it is through a corporation.

Political Art

Fairey says his experiences and perceptions as an artist have changed, especially now the public  recognize his work, and that “there’s another kind of struggle, which is the struggle I have with myself in terms of how I can evolve my ideas and push them forward based on the fact that I’m not going to be perceived as a complete outsider anymore.” The Associated Press, as well as the man who took the original photograph of Obama, also sued Fairey over copyright, though he later admitted the photograph was the basis for his “Hope” poster and that he had tried to destroy any evidence of the original.

A combination of modern and street art often occurs when an artist's work is politically charged, as is Matthew Land’s piece, “The Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots,” featured at Thumbprint Gallery. As Land describes, “In society today it seems that we, as citizens of the world, place a lot of power and responsibility in the hands of politicians and businessmen who say they are going to help us.” 

You can view and purchase works by Thumbprint Gallery artists at our online store. Check it out here.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Banksy: Street Art in the Shadows

Written by Jocelyn Saucedo

No one knows for sure who Banksy really is, but his work has achieved a cult status in the world of modern art, and brought recognition to street art. His elusive personality garners him both love and hate from the public. Some call his work vandalism or annoying, while many regard him as an artistic revolutionary hero. But regardless of public opinion, the artist has been in the world of street art since the 90’s, and has made a brand of himself through his mysterious nature.

Although interviews with him are rare, Banksy has revealed he was born in Bristol, England and that his beginnings in street art first came through graffiti. He admits it would take him far too long to write out letters with spray paint, which increased his chances of being caught. This is why he opted to use stencils, which he says are accurate and efficient. Often satirical messages and use of slogans characterize his work. Other common motifs are paintings about politics through the use of animals like rats. He also incorporates human figures like policemen, soldiers, or the elderly.

Upon moving to London, he used his street art as a way to counter all of the advertising and billboards that he saw in the city. He “always felt that it was all right to answer back a little bit, I suppose. That the city shouldn't just be a one-way conversation,” Banksy said in an interview with The Sun.
Although his work often sells for millions, remaining anonymous helps him to be humble and to focus on his work. He also prefers to showcase his art prints and other works in a warehouse instead of a gallery. To the artist, graffiti has “always been a temporary art form. You make your mark and then they scrub it off…most of it is just designed to look good from a moving vehicle.”
On his own terms, Banksy has managed to have his art prints displayed, albeit briefly, in some of the world’s finest museums. Dressed in a trench coat and fake beard, the artist himself walked in and hung up some of his own art prints alongside famous modern art prints at the Museum of Modern Art, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also placed some of his art prints at London’s Tate Modern art gallery, in an attempt to officially display them and avoid anyone copying his work.

Last year, a mural of a mouse flying a kite surfaced in Oceanside, California and was believed to be by the famous artist, but it was later confirmed that it had not been painted by the artist. However, Banksy’s influence on street art, and the awareness he has brought to the movement, has inspired many other artists in San Diego.

At Thumbprint Gallery, graffiti and stencils are important mediums for Michael Mahaffey, N.O.M.A.D., Enosh, Grandlarsen, Keemowerks and Jason Feather. Artists like Mahaffey had similar beginnings to Banksy, and later ventured into galleries as their own style developed. “I started working on stencils with a friend of mine, and we would hit the streets of Tucson late at night with our stencils and spray paint,” notes Mahaffey. You may check out urban art available at Thumbprint Gallery by clicking here.

See more Thumbprint Gallery artworks available in our online store here.