Shepard Fairey is an American artist who gained national prominence in 2008 with his famous “HOPE” poster of Barack Obama, which played an important role in the Presidential campaign.
Born in 1970, Fairey graduated from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1992 with a B.F.A. in Illustration. While attending RISD, Fairey worked in a local skateboarding shop, where he stenciled punk T-shirts. There, Fairey nurtured a sense of rebelliousness and subversion of authority in his work.
Indeed, Fairey achieved his first taste of publicity when he was arrested for a practice called wheat pasting, in which an artist displays his work on public property using an adhesive mixture of water and wheat. Aside from these arrests, Fairey is no stranger to legal trouble. In 2009, the Associated Press sued him for basing his “HOPE” poster on one of their photos of Obama. Fairey argued fair use.
Fairey’s main ongoing project today is “Obey,” which he describes as a “counter-culture Big Brother.” Designed in the early 1990s, the Obey icon features a face based on that of Andre the Giant, a professional wrestler, often with the word “OBEY” accompanying it. According to Fairey, “The OBEY sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings.”
Fairey has also designed several album covers for prominent musicians, including the Smashing Pumpkins (“Zeitgeist”), Flogging Molly (“Whiskey on a Sunday”), Led Zeppelin (“Mothership”), and the Black Eyed Peas (“Monkey Business”). Additionally, he was featured in the documentary film “Beautiful Losers,” which profiled a group of young artists (including Fairey) in New York City in the 1990s.