What started out eight years ago as a private joke for Rhode Island School of Design student Shepard Fairey (and his skateboarding friends) has since snowballed into something of a minor cultural phenomenon. Shepard’s The One-Man Army is responsible for all those “obey giant Has A Posse” stickers plastered throughout cities like Providence, Boston, New York, Philly, San Diego, San Francisco, Paris, London, Vienna, and Tokyo. They also adorn traffic lights, mailboxes, and stop signs in even more remote areas of the globe. One of his “ATGHAP” stickers even found its way onto the set of an MTV show for a few months, as well as on the cover of albums by New Kingdom and Spore.
His designs depict the sallow-faced wrestler moonlighting as other celebrities -Jimi Hendrix, Neil Amstrong, Sid Vicious, Gene Simmons, and Ringo Starr among others as well as ad campaigns like the “Okay Soda” spoof. In New England, imitations / commentaries are limited only by other artist imaginations. Mong them: “obey giant has a Poopie,” “obey giant has A Midget,” “Aretha the Rabbit has A Posse,” “Jack Burton has A Posse,” “John Travolta has A Leisure Suit,” and “Andre Can’t Dance.” But that’s fine with the soft-spoken artist who made Andre The Giant a household name, as he wants people to interpret the meaning for the stickers for themselves. For him, his joke has been transformed into a semi-serious socio-psychological experiment with the masses, and if other artist want to comment at it, that’s fine with him. It’s all a reaction to, and commentary on, pop culture.
Shepard’s “Andre” stickers, T-shirt, and posters straddle the fine line between propaganda, commerce and art. It was Andy Howell’s interest in Shepard’s work that made him relocate from sunny Rhode Island to dismal San Diego, California for a distribution deal with Howell’s company Sophisto several years ago. Since then, Shepard joined a local branch of the FBI (First Bureau of Imagery), and now he operates as an ensign at Black Market Designs. In addition to having his art showcased in exchibits across the country and around the world, Shepard has been the subject of a short film documentary that screened at Sundance Film Festival, as well as a profile in the New York Times and numerous graphic-design publications.
- Geoff Kula