We were in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, stopping by a popular espresso bar for a quick coffee, driving around and around looking for a spot to park when there it was staring at us: A poster by artist Shepard Fairey. A little later, on a recent visit to the Arts District in L.A. to grab a quick lunch, again while driving around the block over and over again seeking an open parking space, there we found another Fairey artwork, its gaze bearing down on us. This past weekend, we drove into the Sawtelle area (a.k.a., “Little Osaka”) of Los Angeles on a mission to pick up some boba teas, and there, yet again, was another of Shepard’s iconic red-black-and-white portraits, a wheat-paste poster on a utility box, staring at us. Shepard Fairey, you’re everywhere. Why can’t we quit you, godammit!
Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.
But it’s showing its age. It’s worn, fading, and a little tattered from the elements. Although the physical integrity of artwork has degraded, it’s actually made the poster more interesting in a way that’s similar to the way patination on a bronze statue gives it more character or the way a pair of Japanese RPM selvedge denim jeans develop a distinct shape, fade and crease when worn everyday and left unwashed for a year.
Part of street art’s magic is that it’s ephemeral. It comes and goes. It disappears. And part of that ephemerality is seeing it age, bearing witness to its slow destruction.
As Fairey’s Venice Beach poster continues to come apart and fade, it’s takes on a new aesthetic. It becomes more beautiful as it degrades and loses the perfection of it’s original state. The artwork is humbled by the elements and by time. Yet it remains a remarkable image and retains the unconventional nature inherent in art that’s “in the streets.”
Looking at it this way is like the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. And yet the core image persists on the landscape, provoking thought , remaining a subject of appreciation.
The ever-gentrifying Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles is home to lots of large-scale street art, including this classic Shepard Fairey politically-tinged mural on Alameda Street behind the Angel City Brewery. The artwork depicts the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan holding a sign that says “Legislative influence for sale.” Its message — and politically expressive art in general — strongly resonates in the current American political climate.
We spotted some new street art from artist Shepard Fairey in an unusual spot last week. Along Pacific Coast Highway, under the towering bluffs of north Santa Monica, there’s an abandoned, partially destroyed retaining wall where two new black-and-white graphic posters had been wheat-pasted. One poster is of draped triangle of the American flag. The other is a classic “Andre” Obey poster.
In 2008 street artist and designer Shepard Fairey created a colorful poster depicting then U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama with a single-word message “Hope” written on it. The image had a graphic, illustrative quality and was based on a press photo of the candidate. The poster was an instant classic of graphic design and became an important piece of the Obama campaign’s visual communications arsenal. Obama’s winning of the 2008 election sealed the poster’s iconic status. Eight years later, in the final year of Obama’s presidency, we stumbled upon an updated version of the same poster image on a rubbish bin in Venice, Los Angeles. Now the same iconic image is rendered in black-and-white version and instead of “Hope,” the word “History” is written across the bottom. The phrase “dustbin of history” comes to mind. Is the fact that the sticker is on a garbage bin a political statement?
Our contributing editor Ryan Baum came across this super awesome mural by the ever-prolific Shepard Fairey at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. Fairey’s artwork here is site specific, drawing from local architectural imagery and referencing the city’s important industrial history. Great stuff.
Ryan Baum images. All rights reserved.
We were riding down the Speedway today when we saw this piece by Shepard Fairey peering at us from behind a chain-linked fence near the intersection with Brooks Court in Venice, in Los Angeles. The wheat-paste appears on the facade of a condemned building overlooking an equally barren courtyard. We couldn’t help but notice the eyes faintly concealed by the irony of a “No Trespassing” sign.