With a touring retrospective exhibition in L.A. and a new mural on the Strip, Shepard Fairey—artist, activist and founder of OBEY Clothing—traces his path from his start as a punk rock skateboarder to a street art icon.
With three decades of work under his belt, the artist who brought street art to the mainstream with his Andre the Giant “Obey” and Barack Obama “Hope” posters, Shepard Fairey (obeygiant.com) shows no signs of slowing down. As a hyperactive young boy who liked to draw, Fairey found joy in skateboarding. “Skateboarding came with a partnership with punk rock music,” he says. “That led me into DIY culture that was guided by underground creativity.” He soon decided to combine his passions to form his career path. “Plus, I couldn’t think of anything else that I was remotely decent at that could earn me money,” he jokes. Fast forward to present day, the married father of two is easily one of the biggest names in contemporary art. He is the creator of some of the most recognized street images in history that are often characterized by polarizing political messages. “I was very broke for a long time,” says Fairey. “But at least I felt like I was doing what I should’ve been doing.” His work is displayed at renowned institutions including The Smithsonian, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His latest work—and his fourth in Las Vegas—was unveiled in October, and it now looms over the courtyard at Park MGM’s nightclub On the Record. The image is based on the iconic Queen II album cover. “Even if you don’t know the band, it feels like rock ’n’ roll,” says Fairey. “That’s the essence that I wanted to capture.”
Photography by: Jon Furlong/Courtesy of ObeyGiant.com