Disobey Fairey

Shepard Fairey Beaten Up For Danish “Hipster Mural”

The Phantom Street Artist has given Shepard Fairey the opportunity to win back his street credibility along with his soiled reputation and ostracized honor by meeting the Phantom Street Artist in the Cage for a benefit fight.


I’ve written an OPEN LETTER to all artists involved in the upcoming ART IN THE STREETS show at the Museum of Contemporary Art-Los Angeles. In this letter I’ve asked the artists (as many as I could get contact info for ) if they had any comments on the recent censorship of Blu’s anti-war/pro-consciousness mural that he painted on the museum as an advertisement for the show. Not an unreasonable request I thought?

Before posing this question in the letter I first stated my concern that this act of censorship was actually a public execution of the anti-war element of street art and thus hoped to have a chilling effect on the rest of the artists, not only in the show but in the artist community at large. I stated my position to try and let the artist know that I wasn’t just trying to start some graffiti beef but that I had legitimate humanitarian concerns (as all readers of this blog know to be true). 

In my humble attempt to reach out to these artists I made sure to first and foremost extend my congratulations to them. I have been a fan to many of these artists for a long time. Seeing them succeed is very cool. In many ways they are setting the tone of the conversation between main stream and the underground. Its for this reason that I thought it all the more relevant that they all be weighing in on this matter of censorship.

It’s been a few days, multiple emails, a couple afternoons worth of twitters since this initial attempt to contact them and although the responses have been limited they have also been quite telling. Espo, obviously tight on his PR game was quick to respond. When asked if he thought Art In the Streets was Graffploitaion or Respectable Exhibit he said “Both”. When responding to the issue of Blu’s piece getting buffed he said “graffiti gets buffed, big deal. controversy is another word for marketing.” This statement I agree in and of itself is true, but can it be applied to this situation? Blu’s piece didn’t buffed because it was illegal. It got buffed specifically because of its message. This was an intentional form of censorship/media blackout.

Revok didn’t seem to be to impressed with my timing on the matter tweeting earlier today "@hamblogggerman -that’s old news, with so much amazing stuff happening within this show… Talk about something worthwhile." While its true that this particular event happened a few months ago, and in today’s world of 24 hour news feeds stories get old quick, the struggle of artistic freedom will always be an issue that in my opinion is something worth talking about. In fact we should all fear the moment we stop talking about it because that will be the moment art no longer makes people think. I would have thought that Revok would have felt me a little bit more on the subject being that he often has blogs that deal with the oppression and tyranny of the state. Recently focusing in on police brutality. Is this act of censorship not just another form of this tyranny? Something else worth talking about is why ELI BROAD, the worlds 45th richest person worth 3.8 billion, is the one financially backing this whole GRAFILTHY show. Anybody got any thoughts on this? Please comment!

Askew1, who himself has recently suffered a brutal act of censorship was also cool enough to share his point of view. When asked what he thought of the matter he said “the censorship of Blu’s work was sad but still the MOCA show will be amazing-with that line up how could it not be?. I know it’s a simplistic view but I’m happy some people I rate are getting the chance to shine.” I replied that if censorship found its way deeper into the show how fresh it was would not be left up to artists. Instead it would be left to the curators.

Askew and Blu have alot in common. They both got buffed and then given an offer to repaint under certain conditions. Askew said that he wouldn’t work with those people and that “Principally I have to consider it working with the enemy.” I’m sure Blu felt the same way. Shit who wouldn’t? So when Askew gives this morally bankrupt museum a pass because his friends are getting a chance to shine I, with total respect, have to say that is a double standard and implies that as long as his friends are getting chipped up working with the enemy is ok. YES MOCA IS THE ENEMY. Lets remember here folks that BLU’s mural was an ANTIWAR mural and we just happen to be leading at least 4 wars where milllions of innocent people will die. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. The only people fronting like thats not the case are agents of the military industrial complex aka THE ENEMY of free humanity!

Anyways Im not really buying into this idea of a pass being given so that folks have a chance to shine. One of the beautiful things about graffiti is that it needs no museum, no internets, no magazines in order to shine. It shines wherever it wants to. These museum curators should be honored to have people, who have risked their lives for art, preforming at their place. Instead they are trying to set the limitations. 


Now!! I know there had to be some voice of dissent coming from the streets. And who better to articulate this then THE PHANTOM STREET ARTIST himself. In a recent critique put out by him he said “These factions and their cohorts present the age old argument that any release of information and or expression will lead to threats of national security or cultural, economical and political loss in place of discursive knowledge and expression.” Apparently he shares some of the same sentiment of mine when it comes to what the implications of the BLU buff saying “What was significantly revealed through its censored act was that the Wall Street speculators and the Art world culture of speculation are all cut from the same patterned ilk. Both worlds resemble underworld seedy RICO backroom trading enterprises. In affinity both markets revolve around mercantile speculators who through clever inside trading, marketing and publicized means and objectives exist to inflate and hype the prices of so called blue chip commodities.” Is the Phantom far off in his appraisal of the situation?

Now as we approach the end of this article I want to make something very clear. I don’t believe that Espo, Revok or anybody in the show, who didn’t reply to me, was happy to see BLU’s mural slaughtered. I think they have too much emotionally invested in the show to talk about how they really feel. Just today we saw another horrific attack on the art community when a recent MSK wall was censored. Within minutes twitter was blowing up with SABER saying “The irony is too thick. We are being honored @MOCAlosangeles as graffiti artists while other testicles of the city are removing our murals.” He goes on to thank the museum for putting on the show, but if the show is just becoming a safe place for graffiti to go when its removed from the streets then isnt it more like a GRAFFITI RESERVATION? Revok requested that”if your in the area throw rocks.” but by this logic we should throwing rocks at MOCA? I just hope they dont expect anybody from MOCA to stand up for them in their own battles with censorship, because obviously inclusion in this exhibit does not insure that your ART IN THE STREETS will live on. There’s just way to many haters!  

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Phantom Street Artist speaks out against Shepard Fairey in Citizen LA

The Citizen LA cover is a collaboration between Rick Mendoza and Joey Krebs aka The Phantom Street Artist. www.citizenla.com

As mentioned on the Myartspace Blog the Phantom Street Artist is actively challenging the ‘street cred’ of artist Shepard Fairey. In my article, titled ‘Shepard Fairey Dodges Criticism at ICA: Street Artists and Copyright Advocates Demand Answers‘ , I mentioned that some street artists are furious concerning the commercialization of street art by Shepard Fairey and his business associates. Unfortunately, their voice has not been heard widely— even on the majority of websites and e-zines dedicated to street art.

For that article I asked Joey Krebs aka Joel Jaramillo, aka Caine 2, aka the LA Street Phantom, aka The Phantom Street Artist about some of the statements Shepard Fairey has made about his work for Pepsi, Saks, and other companies. The Phantom Street Artist told me that he and others close to him feel that Shepard Fairey is “buying status and staking claim in a world that refuses to recognize him.” Krebs then told me, “The media does not represent the voice of the street. It represents the money of those who want to be recognized on the street.”. He went on to say that Fairey is, “privileged, self entitled and self consumed.”. Needless to say, The Phantom has been very critical of Shepard Fairey‘s art, practice, and ethics.

For my article The Phantom Street Artist mentioned that he would like to “challenge” Shepard Fairey— stating, “I want to challenge his point of view, his beliefs and his values in a dual of sorts. I want to challenge him physically, mentally, and perceptually.“ Krebs then told me, “This is the chance for him to win the character approved award by his colleagues— true street artists. The challenge match is a physical as well as a conceptual performance.”.I then asked the Phantom Street Artist if he felt that Shepard Fairey would meet his challenge concerning credibility on the streets. The Phantom responded, “There is no risk if you do not risk yourself. This is not a game of perception being managed and defined by publicist and public relations officers. These money fed publicists failed to realize that media is nothing other then the perception of opinion formed in management.”. In a sense, the Phantom Street artists feels that Shepard Fairey, with the help of a media relations machine, has bastardized the street art movement.The Phantom Street Artist’s “character approved” statement was a jab at the USA Networks “ Character Approved Award ”, an award given by the USA Network to the most “remarkable, imaginative and innovative characters”— Shepard Fairey won the top slot for the 2009 art category. Needless to say, the Phantom Street Artist does not feel that Shepard Fairey’s art is remarkable, imaginative, or innovative as far as street art is concerned. In fact, he feels that the award given by the USA Network to Shepard Fairey is a prime example of how corporations are claiming street art for profit and marketability with Shepard Fairey serving— or should I say obeying — as a corporate spearhead.
The Phantom Street Artist at work.The words of the Phantom Street Artist have not went unheard. Citizen LA , a monthly arts & lifestyle publication that strives to support and sustain cultural diversity in Los Angeles, has acknowledge the Phantom Street Artist’s criticism of Shepard Fairey and his call for a “cage match” between the two with “street cred” in the balance— a performance of sorts that would also serve the purpose of raising money for charity. Both artists have experience with fundraising. The Phantom helps to operate Art Saves Lives, www.artsaveslives.net, a non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless through art. Will Shepard Fairey meet the Phantom’s challenge?The Citizen LA article/interview touched on several other issues concerning the Phantom’s criticism of Shepard Fairey. Heidi Hutchinson, reporting for Citizen LA, recently conducted an interview with the Phantom Street Artist titled, RAGE AGAINST THE SHEPHERD FAIREY PROPOGANDA MACHINE. In the interview the Phantom Street Artist explains to Hutchinson that Shepard Fairey does not represent the voice of the “populace” and is instead the “voice of the Elitist Media disguised”.

In his interview for Citizen LA the Street Phantom goes on to suggest that Shepard Fairey is nothing other then a “consumer being consumed” by buying media time, buying publicity, and buying legal representation. The Phantom states that Fairey has done this to “justify his infringed violations” in order to “present himself as a legit street artist.” The Phantom went on to say that Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant Art, Inc. are “exploitive media whores jacking references from historic cultures for their own selfish interests.”According to the Citizen LA interview The Phantom is also critical of the ICA retrospective of Shepard Fairey’s career. The Phantom feels that the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston “conjured” a 20 year retrospective with total disregard for Shepard Fairy’s “unapologetic infringed actions”. The Phantom views this as “a sign of the degeneration of our society and culture which is being conformed by mediocrity by the likes of Shephard Fairey and OBEY as well as his publication SWINDLE as the true life metaphor to inveigle beliefs systems and values all in the interest of mammon.”.The Phantom’s message is clear— he feels that Shepherd Fairey is no different than the entities he has spoke out against visually. In the Citizen LA interview he describes Shepard Fairey as the “poster boy for Big Brother”— stating, “The media is run by elitists to manipulate public opinion. They’ve also overtaken the independent media, including Satellite Radio.”.The Phantom then mentions that the real meaning of Fairey’s art is the power of propaganda as far as branding and commerce is concerned. He explained to Hutchinson, “OBEY has no responsible message other then to brand self promotion in the self interest of commerce.”— an opinion that is shared by many street artists who are wary that the history of their ’culture’ as well as the power of the messages they leave are threatened by commercialization.

In the Citizen LA interview The Phantom states that Shepard Fairey’s actions is the “epitome of rape,” based on his ravaging of “important historical and revolutionary cultures, ideas, concepts and visions” for profit. According to Citizen LA The Phantom— born to first generation immigrants from Ecuador— feels that Shepard Fairey is “demeaning” the integrity of the “referenced” works as well as the voice of disenfranchised cultures from which they emerged by altering images without credit. The Phantom finds it offensive that Fairey has “referenced” works from Latino cultural history for profit— stating in the Citizen LA interview, “He’s making a novelty out of degrading our historical cultural imagery.”.Concerning Shepard Fairey’s case against the Associated Press the Phantom stated, “If visual artist or merchandisers like Shepard Fairey can cite “fair use” only in the interest of protecting their corporate interest of profit, we have lost the value of “fair use”. Phantom explained to Citizen LA that people should not sit back while Shepard Fairey exploits “fair use” for profit— stating, “Fair Use protects language and true social commentary without suffocating independent voices.”. The Phantom went on to suggest that if Shepard Fairey wins his case against the Associated Press it will kick open the door for the exploitation of “fair use” by the rich and powerful.Needless to say, the Citizen LA interview with the Phantom Street Artist is a must read for anyone who has been following the chaos involving Shepard Fairey. The article gives some great details about the Phantom’s upbringing, street roots, and other insightful information about the artist. The Citizen LA website, www.citizenla.com, contains several other stories and interviews of interest. Do check them out.For those who don’t know, The Phantom Street Artist is a Los Angeles based street artist who is widely known for creating art that was used on the cover of the Rage Against the Machine album titled The Battle of Los Angeles. The Phantom directed two videos for Rage Against the Machine, ‘Bulls on Parade’, and ‘Renegades of Funk,’. Both videos were awarded by MTV. The Rage Against the Machine album and videos feature the Street Phantom’s signature artwork— a lone silhouette, which the Phantom explains represents the “Public Everyman“.The Phantom’s criticism of Shepard Fairey offers the hope that maybe the voice of the ‘everyman’ can be powerful enough to go against the grain of media sensationalism and the cult of personality. Personally, I do hope that the Phantom and Shepard Fairey have an ‘art bout’ for charity. It would be interesting to observe the two match wits and talent for a good cause.Update: This write-up is a review of the article/interview that the Phantom had sent to me. According to the Phantom, Citizen LA decided to edit most of the content due to “fear of legal retribution”. The Phantom suggests that Citizen LA took creative liberties with the presentation as a whole. Perhaps the Fairey Machine runs deeper than first expected— or maybe there was just a lack of communication between the Phantom and Heidi Hutchinson? As the saying goes, “There are two sides to every story”. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.George Stiehl, the publisher of Citizen LA, has contacted me over the issue. He has stated that there was only one version of the piece. Stiehl suggests that the situation may be due to a misunderstanding or lack of communication. He made it clear that Citizen LA does not intentionally misrepresent their interviewed artists— and that he hopes to solve the issue in an amicable manner.That said, the version that was published was enough to spur a reaction. According to my sources an outspoken critic of Shepard Fairey was threatened after mentioning the Citizen LA Phantom piece on Facebook— she has since pulled her criticism from Facebook out of fear of being physically harmed.
Take care, Stay true,Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange

Obey Propaganda



So here is the story,

A few months ago I purchased an ‘obey’ print, titled Nouveau Black, (link to print on obey site) I thought it was rather beautiful.

Then a few days ago my roommate was flipping through a Koloman Moser (wikipedia link) book, and found the exact same artwork, only it wasn’t done by Shepard Fairy.

Propaganda huh!

"Ver Sacrum" is the title of the piece, it was done in india ink, in 1899.

The picture above is the obey poster hanging in my room, with the book (amazon book link) turned to the page of the original artwork. so we did some photoshop work of our own and with a little tugging and pulling we found that the original Moser fit quite perfectly on top of the obey print.

Maybe we need some new Slogans…..

"steal art not guns"

"make photocopies, not war"

Rage Against the Shepard Interview: Joey Krebs by Heidi Hutchinson

Rage Against the Shepard
Interview: Joey Krebs
by Heidi Hutchinson

“Jack’d in da Hood” has a jumbo beef with Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant Art, Inc.
“They’re exploitive media whores jacking references from real society and historic cultures for their own selfish interests,” Jack’d says.
Jack’d is the latest moniker mask worn by “The Phantom Street Artist” aka “Joey Krebs” aka “Caine 2,” etc. whose own claims to fame include cover art for the punk-rock-rap-blend group, Rage Against the Machine’s first platinum album, “The Battle of Los Angeles.”
The multi-masked Phantom creatively directed Rage Against the Machine in several music videos, including the MTV award-winning “Bulls on Parade”, and “Renegades of Funk,” which is currently receiving heavy airplay.
The MTV videos feature Phantom’s signature artwork, the silhouette or Shadow, which serves as the archetype for the Public Everyman.
Phantom is also a daring performance artist who’s drawn huge crowds at events like the Academy Awards, where he appeared as Mr. Big Money wedded to Miss Cul-cha-cha a transvestite. The piece was a parody on the marriage of culture to greed,” Phantom explains.
Phantom’s “Insulting Price of Right,” a staged event where contestants who named the right price were awarded the op to win big money by throwing shoes at the Pres, was laced with the same motif.
At the moment, The Phantom is lost in the development of a creative project that rages against what both he and his subject matter, Shepard Fairey say Fairey’s Obey Giant ‘artwork’ represents: “the power of propaganda” or in actual application, brand imaging through repetition. In defending his work as art that makes social commentary, Fairey has repeatedly said, “the medium is the message.”
The Phantom translates that to mean, “the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. “Fairey is just looking for loopholes to justify thievery.”
“Shepard Fairey has become the poster boy for Big Brother,” says Phantom. “Fairey’s own comments on his work are, “that it amounts to commerce, is ambiguous, has no message”; that’s not art, that’s brand promotion and Fairey has no right to steal from other artists and claim ownership of cultural icons to do it.”
To bring attention to his point, the Phantom is challenging Fairey to a cage fight wherein, if Fairey shows or not, Phantom says he’ll “rip the veneer off the Giant’s façade.” Clearly, The Phantom wants a piece of Shepard Fairey. At first glance, I wonder if Phantom desires to ‘take on’ Fairey for the cause or to shine in Fairey’s limelight or both.
But the Phantom isn’t pulling any punches. He eschews all discussion on himself and his own artistic achievements. We’ve logged over 500 cell phone minutes and every question I pose that is not on the topic of his present purpose is muted by a character voice amplified through a reverb mic. He’s either deep in the throws of his creative process or undiagnosed.
Heidi: Eddie Glowaski was your street artist mentor as a kid in New York, how did it effect you when he was shot to death?
An echoing voice booms over the phone.
The Phantom: The Time Has Come to Take Down the Giant! The Phantom challenges the Giant to a cage fight, Mano a mano!
Heidi: I loved your Momento Mori’ photo Vivandi recreation on the Death of an 18th Century Soldier piece for the anti-war show at…
Announcer voice cuts in with an “eek” amp squeak.
The Phantom: Join the Phantom as he battles the Giant to gain rightful title as street artist of the Universe!
Heidi: O.K., um, since your youth you’ve studied with some famous wrestling, mixed martial art’s mentors. How does that physical release help transcend…
The Phantom: Fair Use versus Fairey Use™! The challenge is ON! Let’s take this to the cage!
Bap! Bap! Punching noises.
Heidi: Is this a bad time?
The Phantom: Grrr. C’mon Fairey let’s see your strokes. Whatcha got? Take THAT Giant!

Bap! Umph! Umph!
Unknown High-pitched voice: Ouch. No, no! Cease and desist, Cease and desist! Yosi Sergeant’s my publicist!
Umph! Sounds like a knock out punch. Crowd cheering.
Heidi: Joey? Are you alone? …Did you book, is this Sabastian? Joey, you are fully creeping me out here.
Call drops, phone goes dead.
“What Shepard Fairey is doing is the epitome of rape,” Phantom says once I’ve finally pinned him down and we’re face to face. “Fairey’s ravaging historical cultures, revolutionary ideas, concepts and visions for profit alone.”
On the contrary, Fairey claims his right to use cultural iconography and appropriate copyright work without reference is protected under “fair use.”
In the postmodern age of Socratic wise cracks, “fair use” was originally adopted to allow for comment, critique or satire on work already so well known that reference is unnecessary and permission ridiculously beside the point.
“There’s fair use and then there’s ‘Fairey Use™,’” says Phantom who has trademarked the term in Fairey mockery. “Fairey is so full of hubris he’s taken OWNERSHIP of icons in the public domain and threatened to sue artists, like Baxter Orr, who dared to appropriately use the same icons Fairey has misappropriated.”
Phantom, not his real surname, who is the off-spring of first generation immigrants from Equador, also finds it offensive that Fairey labels significant art belonging to Latino cultural history such as the work of Rene’ Mederos, “propaganda.”
Fairey, however, arguably alters public domain and copy right works—which he HAS referred to in interviews as “MY icons” and “propaganda”—to a degree, over 10% subjectively, a factor that may make them fair game for fair use or already immune to copyright infringement accusations.
But Phantom views such alterations as all the more demeaning to the integrity of the borrowed works and the voice of the disenfranchised cultures from which many emerged. “He’s making a novelty out of, degrading our cultural imagery. Satire, irony and political commentary are the tools of the oppressed,” explains Phantom. “We cannot allow vacuity, meaninglessness, novelty, mere branding into the realm of true social commentary without suffocating the voice, wiping out the vision of the people. We are seeing the structures of society collapse around us because of the lack of reference and understanding of our foundations that Fairey and his publicity machine propagate. What he’s doing is part of what’s tearing at, breaking down the structures of humanity! Understand?”
No, but somewhere between the Phantom, the plunging stock market and my raised rent notice, I’m having recurring nightmares about cranes clawing at the beams of my loft building and skyscrapers crumbling. Since I can’t sleep I go online to discover that The Phantom, Joey Krebs, has written a book titled “Someone Else’s America.” It’s received excellent reviews from Black Book Magazine, and other subversive media including a wonderfully written critique from our own Craig Stevens who contributes to Citizen LA. There’s a stunning book cover graphic, a halk-naked child with the caption: “Father, forgive those who have sinned against us…” After an hour of trying to order the book I begin to suspect that it does not exist. I aim my recorder at the phone and call Joey.
Heidi: So, Mr. Phantom, what’s your best-selling book about?”
The Phantom: The disappearing structures of society sub-planted by media hype.”
Heidi: O.K. that’s all, good night.

*** The Phantom was born in Queens, New York in 1973. He has two sisters both of whom are now wards of the state, the Nation. Mentally, emotionally disabled. “Beautiful, beautiful souls,” the Phantom finally tells me. Tina only responds to music. But Mary is higher functioning. They were abused in foster care as children, their single working Mom unable to consistently support her children alone. They were always being displaced by evicting landlords, moving from the City out to Long Island, back to the City, and back together again when Mom could afford them. The Phantom was a bright child bursting with angry, tangled energy, creativity and a yearning to learn. But the schools were a harsh environment. How could a child put his nose in a book when he had to watch his back?
The Phantom found mentors, a family of other displaced big brothers who roamed the streets at night. They claimed City corners, blocks as their home. There was no computer or even refrigerator to post up their pictures, or essays so they placed their angst on buildings, platforms, made their mark on exposed walls and it was called street art. It was the ‘80’s, the height of the graffiti art movement, all the rage. So, that’s what they did. They could have done worse. They couldn’t do any better.
Then, one night on the streets, Phantom and his crew were running away from some thugs who heard Phantom’s chief mentor, Eddie Glowaski, Caine 1, was doing well with his art. The bully’s thought he had money and wanted a piece of it. Eddie ran to the door of an old man who’d been robbed and didn’t care to be victimized again. The old man shot Eddie rather than let them in. The police report says the murder was in self-defense during a robbery. But Phantom says Eddie wasn’t armed or meaning harm. “It was a case of mistaken intent.” Eddie was cuffed before his wound was treated. He was a hemophiliac. He died of blood loss.
The Phantom fled the City, ran off to the Island again and joined a now-famous wrestling studio to sharpen his mind, build his strength and physical awareness. He dreamed of being Everyman, the power of the people fighting back. The Phantom began doing well at school. Eventually he made his way to LA to take up Art studies at USC and UCLA. “Knowledge is power,” Phantom says. He never paid college tuition, but he showed up, sat in on the classes regularly. No one ever noticed but soon his artwork was.
“Jackdando Mi Kultura taking back Kulture Yo,” is a project of Phantom’ Art Saves Lives (ASL) collective dedicated to preserving ethnic cultural history and promoting social interaction across “diverse expressions,” says Phantom. “We are visionary believers who are returning media to its true messengers.”
“Jack’d in da Hood®” is ASL’s new mascot ‘originated’ by The Phantom in “homage, reverance” to Fairey’s Andre’ the Giant street bully branding methods.
Though “Jack’d” is reminiscent of a faintly familiar public figure, identified by vigilant experts as fast food magnet “Jack Box,” Phantom insists any resemblance is strictly incidental.
The Phantom is not the only Shepard Fairey detractor who’s popped out of the box.
Mat Gleason, founder of Coagula Magazine an Ovation Satallite TV, Mark Vallen of Art for A Change, Art Blogger Brian Sherwin, Dan Wasserman of The Boston Globe and other critics have all weighed in against Fairey Use™.
As have certain voices of the street. At Shepard Fairey’s New York show last year a 24-year-old man known by the Tag, “The Slasher,” set off a stink bomb. He now faces a 15-year prison term sentence.
At the Art Basal show in Miami “All City Crew” tagged Shepard Fairey’s work on display and posted their video doing so on You Tube.
Fairey also has fingers wagging on the web, ‘for shame.’ A two-year debate raged on Flickr, sparked by a former Fairey fan who was shocked upon her discovery that an Obey Giant trademarked poster she purchased “Black Noveau” was not an original Fairey illustration but a traced composite of a classic Koloman Moser reprint bordered by clip art. Fairey or his shop workers only added the Obey Giant logo, with a pithy anti-war epithet and a price TAG.
The Flickr® thread is at this email address: http://flickr.com/photos/thenerd/332243824/
Now, more grist’s been tossed into the Zeitgeist since the Stanford Center for Internet and Society’s “Fair Use Project” filed suit on behalf of Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant Art, Inc. vs. the Associated Press on February 9, 2009.
The Fair Use Project (FUP) complaint, which can be read athttp://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/taxonomy/term/374, seeks legal vindication over Fairey’s appropriation of ‘the photograph’ snapped by AP freelancer Mannie Garcia. Fairey snatched Garcia’s photo off the web to make ‘his’ now famous “Hope” poster for the Obama campaign without permission or citation. In case you’ve just arrived from another galaxy and didn’t know.
“Have you read John Keane, ‘The Media and Democracy’?” Phantom pointedly asks. “The media is run by elitists to manipulate public opinion. They’ve also overtaken the independent media, including Satellite Radio.” Next, NOW, Phantom believes the elitists, Fairey among them, are buying out the last bastions of free speech, the Internet, and the very streets. “Shepard Fairey is a sell-out, a TOY, a dupe for Big Brother.”
Kreb’s argument rings eerily true, in view of the recent Face Book controversy, where if not for the intervention of some keen John Q. Public observers who actually read Face Book’s new “terms of use” agreement, content posted on the site would become the property of the online mega-media corp. Indeed, Fairey’s legal reps do have an agenda. One of their stated objectives found on FUB’s website is to “clarify and extend the boundaries of “fair use” in order to enhance creative freedom.” And FUB’s website does debatably endorse Silicon Valley giants such as “Google.”
In the Phantom vs. Giant battle, Fairey is likely to be favored by a vast majority across America as well as here in the land of rampant Fairey tales, Downtown LA from whence the craftsman hails.
Just yesterday I happed to eavesdrop on a conversation at our local Art’s District Ground Works coffee shop on the subject. Since I haven’t been able to reach Fairey as of this writing I reached out my recorder and asked for a quote from these obviously ‘legit’ opinionated artists who asked not to be named.

The young woman, a self-described “good friend of Shepard’s,” said, “If you have to reference your inspirations for your artwork you’d have to assume your audience is stupid.”

The man she was with also sided with Fairey. He referred to Fairey’s process as “visual sampling.” However, when I suggested to him that those with available legal funding might far better defend their copyrights and/or rights to copy than they who lack attorney retainer fees he offered this quote:

“If Fairey, used any of my work without permission I’d settle it by giving him a dental bill. Just go over and beat him up, done deal.”
I hadn’t breathed a word about The Phantom’s Cage fight challenge.

- HH


Review: Shepard Fairey at ICA Boston

March 23, 2009 |  7:00 am

ObeyReporting from BostonShepard Fairey is a talented Los Angeles graphic designer who has twice hit the big time with the public. Provocative connections between the two episodes emerge from a survey of Fairey’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Art here. So do the rather stark limitations of his work.

Fairey’s first impact was commercial — “Obey Giant,” a 1989 street-art project that grew into a thriving youth-market business in stickers, posters, apparel, notebooks and other retail products. His second was political — a 2008 poster made independently to support Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations, which was quickly embraced by the candidate and an ever-widening cadre of supporters.

"Obey Giant" became a cash cow. "Obama Hope" became the successful campaign’s defining image.

The 39-year-old designer on view in the ICA’s “Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand” possesses a  limited pictorial vocabulary, while the grandest curatorial claims made for the nearly 250 examples in the galleries are unsupportable. But the 20-year success of “Obey Giant” can’t be denied, nor can the efficacy of its strategies in establishing “Obama Hope” in the public consciousness. If neither adds up to major art or effective counterculture politics, both are plainly worth considering.

Visually and conceptually, Fairey’s work is to graphic design what sampling is to pop music. His catalog of fragmentary sources includes Russian Constructivist propaganda (Varvara Stepanova, the Stenberg brothers, Alexander Rodchenko), FaireyAndy Warhol’s high-contrast silk-screen technique, anonymous news photographs (using an Associated Press photo of Obama has generated a lawsuit), American government-issue engravings (stamps, currency, pamphlets), Barbara Kruger’s red-white-and-black Minimalist images with text, psychedelic advertising, Mexico’s Popular Graphics Workshop from the 1940s, Cold War commercials and much more.

All are populist forms. Fairey appropriates, fragments, combines and colors them, almost always as screenprints and occasionally with the addition of hand-painting. Sometimes he prints on white or off-white paper. More interesting are the prints made on newsprint overlaid with decorative patterning.

These surfaces have a nostalgic aura. Musty and…

… domestic, like something half-remembered from childhood visits to grandma’s house, they recall old-fashioned wallpaper in faded rooms. The aroma of ruin and decay is enhanced by tattered elements of collage.

"Obey Giant" began when Fairey, born in South Carolina, was a 19-year-old student at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, 50 miles south of Boston. He made black-and-white stickers featuring an offset portrait of a 520-pound, 7-foot-4 professional wrestler, plus the legend "Andre the Giant has a posse." Fairey and friends plastered the stickers on any available surface — store windows, phone booths, walls, fences. The pre-teen sticker-mania of the 1980s got mashed into the era’s blue-nose warning labels for record albums, and something wonderfully weird was born.

If you knew who Andre was, you could accept or reject being in his posse — his fan club. If you didn’t know, you were left to wonder what the mystery subculture was about.

Eventually the image got refined. A flat, high-contrast icon in black ink on white rises above the single word, “OBEY,” set against a bright red ground. With variations, that later became the Obama motif.

The inspiration for “Obey Giant” was John Carpenter’s 1988 comedy-cum-sci-fi thriller “They Live,”a Reagan-era movie in which the American ruling class was actually composed of aliens, who retained wealth and power through exploitation of subliminal advertising. The film’s dark hero, George Nada — played by pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper — discovers a pair of magic sunglasses that, when worn, allows him to see the word “obey” hidden in every commercial billboard on the street.

What did Fairey’s “Obey Giant” mean? Nothing, really — or, in keeping with Carpenter’s symbolism,nada. The stickers and posters are the public expression of a private enthusiasm, uttered freely and without social permission from authorities in an arena usually reserved for sale to business. In trickle-down America, that was enough.

Emily Moore Brouillet, the show’s co-curator (with Pedro H. Alonzo), writes in the big catalog: “Obey Giant utilizes the language and aesthetics of advertising, yet advertises nothing.” She’s half-right. Back when Fairey was unknown, the imagery did possess the power to confuse — to create the simple question, “What’s that?,” in a viewer’s mind. The absence of an obvious answer, alien to almost all graphic imagery that washes over us in public every day, caused a brain ripple.

But for “Obey Giant” that cognitive dissonance is long gone. Success answered the question, “What’s that?,” with “That’s a Shepard Fairey.” Cognitive dissonance got replaced by conventional branding. The existence of a powerful brand is good for business, but it pretty much neuters claims of social nonconformity or underground rebellion for his work.

Two Sides of Capitalism: BadAfter an introductory gallery that chronicles the genesis of “Obey Giant,” the exhibition unfolds thematically. Conventional images of war, peace and pop music predominate, with forays into book-jacket design —Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” — as well as covers for Mad and Time magazines. The final gallery features enormous new works on the theme of money and power, gigantic currency that juxtaposes private power and public works as opposite side’s of the federal coin.

Because of the sampling technique, it all looks pretty familiar, even when the source is more obscure than Warhol or Stepanova. Forty-plus years ago Robert Dowd, a minor L.A. Pop artist whose work is currently being surveyed at Pepperdine University’s Weisman Museum, made similar politically oriented works using altered U.S. currency. Even a 1964 Dowd postage-stamp painting turns up in a Fairey anti-Iraq war collage, which transforms a travel image of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser into a roadside-bomb explosion.

The dissonant political tensions between art and advertising have also been more powerfully addressed before. “Chris Burden Promo,” a 1976 TV commercial, inserted the name of the ambitious, little-known young artist into a famous roster that included Leonardo, Michelangelo and Van Gogh, and aired on late-night TV. Even today, its “What’s that?” structure remains effective.

By contrast, Fairey’s claims to questioning authority through guerrilla interventions in the public sphere are jejune. Obey Giant is now an industry, Hello Kitty with pretensions.

Indeed, the most refreshing aspect of Fairey’s design-work is its unvarnished embrace of propaganda as a functional form. He uses propaganda’s established arsenal — repetition, appeals to authority, direct orders, flag waving and more — and never to such good effect as in the great red-white-and-blue Obama poster. What a political candidate wants is for his image to be branded in the largest possible public consciousness. The opposite of questioning authority, a propaganda poster rallies followers — Obama has a posse — which gives the image political purpose.

In the ICA show it’s the museum, not the art, that strains for political effect. Although it’s a 20-year survey, more than 80% of what’s on view was made since 2003. The curators hitch Fairey to an era defined by the gruesome, arguably illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which only underscores how toothless the work is. The politics of the present remain virtually untouched by flower-power images of peace signs and veiled Arab women wielding AK-47s, which claim an essential superiority for maternal benevolence.

Tell it to Imelda Marcos and Margaret Thatcher.

—Christopher Knight

Top: “Obey Icon Pole” (2008). Credit: Obey Giant Art. Bottom: Two Sides of Capitalism: Bad” (2007, 2008). Credit: Jonathan LeVine Gallery

JUNE 18, 2009 5:05PM PHANTOM Challenges Fairey to a Cage Fight

KPFK Pocho Hour of Power


"Our lives begin to end the day if we become silent about things that matter."-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On May 20th 2009 Ed Nachtrieb who is a Photographer Documentarian and Journalist publically stated that Shepard Fairey illegally misappropriated his photograph. Shepard Fairey continues to add insult to injury in continuing to use other people’s photos in his artwork without permission. Shepard Fairey has no regard or respect for copyright laws as he has revealed his actions through stealing the Obama photo without asking for permission.

Fairey spoke on NPR where he read his post on Huffington about how he has justified using photos without permission. His reasons do not hold any reasonable understanding of the copyright laws or creative commons. Shepard doesn’t consider photography as a form to be original artwork only simply a device to exploit others of their lifelong work. Lawyers Lawrence Lessig and Anthony Falzone do not realize the problematic issue they have in legally representing Fairey.

Community work is rooted in its collective voice as there are many heroic voices in our community who are critics, writers and artists who have identified, joined and shared in critically questioning the work of Shepard Fairey. In our of time of great Economic collapse it is important to address the Korporate World War on Greed in identifying the different faces of exploitations which exist in our day and age and have recently come to light.

I would like to begin our discourse by calling into question Shepard Fairey’s unethical cultural practices of producing art that lifted from important cultural and historical sources specifically most recently from an AP photographer for the OBAMA campaign. Fairey has years of exploitative actions in manufacturing radical chic as mercantile. I would like to share these verifiable allegations with you.

Please refer to the following link.


In the tradition of the great 19th Century Duals, I have personally called out and challenged Shepard Fairey to a MMA fight in the cage, My proposed Duel Match will address Fairey’s legitimacy and credibility in question by systematically uncovering a decade of culture thievery and exploitation which has been revealed by victims of this rip off artist. Mark Vallens website has catalogue his violations. There are many others important writers and artists who have identified and shared in the same critique. This is an important issue to address as Fairey is operating as a wolf in sheep’s clothing presenting himself as a Street Artist who is citing creative commons when in fact he is hiding under the umbrella of Fair Use. The artist says he is defending artist everywhere when he is only protecting his assets and other potential lawsuits. The so called rip-off Artist Shepard Fairey is facing serious allegations of Copyright Infringement from the AP.

In addressing the Korporate War on Greed it is important to identify the different types of exploitations which are in existence which have recently come to light. There is a strong organic movement which is being directed towards unveiling individuals like Shepard Fairey who are exploitative in their fundamental practice as the merchant who has violated a decade of copyright laws as well as misrepresenting the media in the marketplace.

Each time the RIP OFF ARTIST Shepard Fairey is legitimately critiqued in the Media he and his minions can only respond by hurling insulting epitaphs or smear campaigns against Brian Sherwin, Lincoln Cushing, Josh MacPhee, and Favianna Rodriguez, Mark Vallens and The Phantom Street Artist. He and His camp of hired publicist have no reasonable argument or substantial response to Fairey’s closeted ten year decade of copyright violations and infringed actions.

The opponents to Shepard Fairey are not one singular individual but a collective of many who have taken a respectable stand against him and his Companies, Greed and Exploitative Acts.

Its gives me great honor to present our collectives Art Saves Lives latest critical cause as well as a proposed charitable event, I would like to invite you to share your critique and valued opinion.

The recent conjured 20 year Retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston on February 6th 2009 is a sham. This is a reputable Museum which has chosen to support over a decade of Fairey’s unapologetic infringed actions without calling into question the true authority of its sources. The Phantom says, “Art and its modern day discourse can no longer exist within the confined borders of white walls but now I feel its time for galleries to be turned into appropriate cages to settle the score of rhetoric dispute and conflict.”
Now the world of art and designers have weighed in against $hephard Fairey. Writers, Critics, Artists and Designers have unilaterally and collectively have spoken out against him and his exploitative blatant thievery corporation. Renowned Designer Milton Glaser was quoted in Print Magazines titled article “Milton Glaser on Shepard Fairey” stating;
“Some in the design community feel the “by” in that first sentence is in question, since many of Fairey’s images are based on preexisting photos and illustrations. And this week the issue exploded: The Associate Press has accused him of copyright infringement for his ubiquitous blue-and-red Obama poster—which they claim was based on an AP photo.” In response The Fairey has decided to take the offence and sue the AP.
“Mat Gleason is an art critic, writer, and publisher of the Coagula Art Journal of Los Angeles, California who shared his explicit thoughts in a video interview that appeared in the Ovation Network documentary, “Art or Not”, Gleason compared Fairey’s art to advertisements for Coca-Cola, saying; “They’re both on the street, they’re both promoting a brand, and at the end of the day, it’s a very empty experience.” Gleason went on to say that, “I think that the art experience is to raise someone’s consciousness, and at the end of the day the Shepard Fairey experience is to promote the brand of Shepard Fairey as a corporate entity, so I don’t consider it art. He is about the furthest thing from art there is.” Mat Gleason went on to add that. “I just consider him to be a successful designer and marketer who pretends to be an artist”

Josh MacPhee of Justseeds/Visual Resistance Artists’ Cooperative is a decentralized community of artists who have banded together to both sell their work online in a central location and to collaborate with and support each other and social movements. Josh was quoted as saying.
“One important thing to acknowledge is that Fairey is not just appropriating, but also copyrighting images that exist in our common history. Posters and graphics made in the heat of political struggles are often made by anonymous individuals or groups that want to keep the images in the public domain for use in further struggle. It is unfortunate that Fairey is attempting to personally capitalize on the generosity of others and privatize and enclose the visual commons (as seen by the prominent copyright symbols on his website and products).” Others responded against the actions of Shepard Fairey by sharing…
The Phantom echoes…

“Fairey is dismissive of critique. His thinking is one dimensional he employs cut-and-paste as his artwork. He inveighs against the depredations of consumer culture, but his design firm works on a “Want It!” campaign for Saks Fifth Avenue. Shepard Fairey wants the street cred of a revolutionary artist extolling freedom fighters and quoting Noam Chomsky all the while doing “guerrilla” marketing campaigns for Netscape and Pepsi.”
True Fair Use is employed for purposes such as social criticism, comment, news reporting, education, scholarship, or research, and is not an infringement of copyright.” These uses generally must be educational, non-profit uses. Fair Use safeguards artists who critically reference language such as satire and parody. But Fairey’s work clearly isn’t a parody of anything other then to profit, exploit and gain economically. Fairey Use TM steals in gratuitous interest. Fairey will steal from anyone or anywhere in ADVANCING his own interest.
I am writing you out of urgency, to responsibly consider the larger impact that his violations and allegations may have upon our greater community of Artists. This legal decision will inevitably affect artist in the courts of public opinion as well as in our legal courts. The match is so in demand that there is a legitimate Mixed Martial Arts fight organization who has organized numerable charitable events who would like to put the Fairey vs Phantom Cage fight on their next Championship Title Fight Card. Art Saves Lives and I are respectfully interested in seeking support from conscientious individuals like you in the realization of our next social campaign. Our intent is to organize through social change a charitable event where The Phantom Street Artist will personally challenge Shepard Fairey and only Shepard Fairey to A Cage Match for a charitable benefit.

Here is the opportunity for Shepard Fairey to be the Graffiti Artist his publicist presents him to be…


The Phantom Street Artist will be available to voice his dissension for any local media, interviews, photographs and or features.

We are the True Visionary Believers who are returning Media and its message to its Messenger:

Come Join US as the TRUE Messengers.

Phantom Street Artist

PROCEEDS FROM THIS BENEFIT EVENT WILL GO TO A GREAT CAUSE… We are in contact with negotiation from WM3

Blow Da Whistle..

Critical Links:

http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/blog3/?p=44#comments




MAY 20, 2009 3:44AM

Shepard Fairey Ripped Off My Picture

fairey rip off

Exactly 20 years ago I took this picture of an armed Chinese soldier at the onset of martial law in Beijing.  That same image, with no attachment to it’s original context or how it fits into the Chinese story, was appropriated by artist Shepard Fairy  (of the Obama “Hope Poster” fame)  See below:

 chinese fairey

Beijing  residents, using busses and their bodies, had blocked a convoy of  soldiers attempting to enter the city. This was the first appearance  of lethal weapons on the streets and was a precursor of  what was to come on June 4. I’m sure the reality of the picture is not relevant  to the artist…but I find that disturbing.

Images stripped of their context but retaining  strong emotional elements are  hallmarks of fascist and Soviet propaganda styles - an acknowledged inspiration for this artist.   In this case, I think a lack of accurate context for the image drains it of meaning.  It’s also dishonest. 

 I suggest that Mr Fairey credit those whos materials he uses to “inspire” him. The truth of things might  help enhance the depth of how his work is perceived and actually make it more interesting to contemplate and not just cool to look at.



What Led Shepard Fairey to Change His Story?

By Stephanie Murg on October 21, 2009 12:03 PM

hopeless.jpgShepard Fairey‘s sudden about-face on the source photo for his iconic Obama HOPE poster puzzled many followers of an already multilayered legal battle with the Associated Press concerning what constitutes fair use. What prompted Fairey’s admission? Lawyers, of course. Thorough ones. The American Lawyer has the scoopfrom the perspective of the AP’s legal team, led by Kirkland & Ellis partner Dale Cendali:

…the fuse that ignited Fairey’s bombshell revelations was lit two weeks ago, when the AP’s legal team…confronted Fairey’s lawyers from Stanford’s Fair Use Project and Durie Tangri with “trace evidence” from materials turned over in discovery. The trace evidence, Cendali said, indicated to Kirkland that Fairey hadn’t given them everything he was supposed to. “We were able to detect that there were other documents that should have been produced,” Cendali said.

Armed with that information, the Kirkland lawyers sent an October 2 letter to Fairey’s legal team, demanding that the missing material be turned over. A week later the Fairey camp responded with a letter outlining plans to amend its complaint against the AP, which initially sought a declaratory judgment that the artist’s use of a photograph of Obama was permissible under fair use doctrine.

The amended complaint and supporting motion explain that Fairey realized his mistake about which Mannie Garcia photo he had used as source material after submitting his original complaint. “Instead of acknowledging that mistake, Mr. Fairey attempted to delete the electronic files he had used in creating the illustration at issue,” notes the motion filed Friday by Fairey’s now thoroughly disenchanted lawyers. “He also created, and delivered to his counsel for production, new documents to make it appear as though he had used [a different] photograph as his reference.”

And the plot thickens. Now the AP is fighting to keep Fairey’s lawyers on the case. They had planned to withdraw. “The AP intends to oppose any such request because, among other things, it would significantly prejudice The AP as it would take new counsel a substantial amount of time to come up to speed,” state the amended filings. “It would also inevitably lead to additional expenses for The AP, a not-for-profit organization that has already been forced to incur substantial cost engaging in a discovery process that was made significantly more expensive by Fairey’s lies and spoliation and fabrication of evidence.”


Poster artist admits to lying

AP to continue copyright suit

By Liz RobbinsNew York Times / October 18, 2009

NEW YORK - Shepard Fairey, the artist whose “Hope’’ poster of Barack Obama became an iconic emblem of the presidential campaign, has admitted that he lied about which photograph from the Associated Press he used as his source, and that he then covered up evidence to conceal his lie.

Fairey’s admission, which he made public Friday, threw his legal battle with the news agency into disarray.

The AP claimed in January that Fairey owed it credit and compensation for using the photograph. But in February Fairey sued the AP, seeking a declaratory judgment that the poster did not infringe on the agency’s copyrights and that he was entitled to the image under the “fair use’’ exception of the copyright law. The AP countersued in March, saying Fairey had misappropriated the photograph.

Fairey told the agency - and his own lawyers - that he had used a photograph from an April 27, 2006, event about Darfur at the National Press Club in Washington, where Obama was seated next to the actor George Clooney. Instead, the photograph he used was from the same event, but was a solo image of Obama’s head, tilted in intense concentration.

Fairey admitted that in the initial months after the suit and countersuit were filed, he destroyed evidence and created false documents to cover up the real source. He said he had initially believed that the AP was wrong about which photo he used, but later realized the agency was right.

“In an attempt to conceal my mistake, I submitted false images and deleted other images,’’ Fairey said in a statement, released on his website. “I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine alone.’’

Fairey’s lawyers said they intended to withdraw when he could find new counsel.

Srinandan R. Kasi, the AP’s general counsel, released a statement Friday night that said: “Fairey’s lies about which photo was the source image were discovered after the AP had spent months asking Fairey’s counsel for documents regarding the creation of the posters, including copies of any source images that Fairey used.’’

Kasi said: “The AP intends to vigorously pursue its countersuit alleging that Fairey willfully infringed the AP’s copyright in the close-up photo of then-Senator Obama by using it without permission to create the Hope and Progress posters and related products, including T-shirts and sweatshirts that have led to substantial revenue.’’

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.