Tag Archives: wabi sabi

OBEY: THE WABI SABI OF OLD SHEPARD FAIREY STREET ART POSTERS

Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.

Take for example most wheat-paste street art posters like the one pictured here in Venice, Los Angeles, by artist Shepard Fairey (see all Shepard Fairey posts). It’s classic Fairey. 

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.