Ray Gun Magazine #70


August, 1999

“Fairey’s use of bold, simple graphics and bright spot colors has influenced campaigns targeted towards the ‘underground subculture’ demographic, and recently, he signed on as a consultant with Airwalk. (But only, the artist pointed out, after he heard through the grapevine they were intentionally aping his style and complained.) Fairey’s graphic design company was also hired to create the new Mountain Dew logo.

The irony of ad agencies finding inspiration in an anti-advertising campaign isn’t lost on Fairey. He’s stunned by the impact his stickers have had on the corporate world, and surprisingly flattered, describing it as a ‘coup.’ His stickers have also made their way onto the sets of MTV, Batman Forever, and 8mm.

But not everyone is as impressed with stickers art as Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Fairey has been arrested five times for destroying public or private property as well as jailed overnight on more than one occasion. His first brush with the law occurred in Providence when he was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Opposed to the mindless following of any advertising campaign, whether commercial or political, Fairey covered a billboard for then-Gubernatorial candidate Buddy Cianci with obey giant stickers. Due to a stroke of bad luck, a friend of Cianci’s daughter ratted out Fairey and he was sentenced to community service. ‘That’s when I realized the power that putting up stickers had,’ says Fairey.

Ascending the steps to the ICA’s ‘Sticker Shock’ exhibit, Fairey enthuses: ‘Wow, this is a real museum.’ Fairey, like several of the artist in ‘Sticker Shock,’ is thrilled by the exhibit, but refrains from considering it a fine art show. Of his own project, Fairey says: ‘I don’t think it’s great art, but an act of perseverance.’ After surveying the exhibit, he heads out to paint the town-make that sticker the town-red. The following day, I’m in a West Philadelphia Kinko’s, making photo copies. On the wall is an in-store promotional poster for the chain, picturing a hard-at-work businessman along with the slogan: ‘Make Your Statement Boldly.’ And the businessman is holding a book with obey giant’s face on it. Has Kinko’s co-opted the work of one of it’s biggest customers? A closer look shows that Fairey has added his own distinctive touch to the poster. Bold Statement made.”