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August 11, 2006




I saw this page on Flickr and thought you might like it.

-- bonanza3

An excerpt from Shepard Fairey's Wikipedia:

Over the past few years, controversy has arose about the originality of Shepard Fairey's work and whether he has intentionally plagiarised peer street wear brands without crediting the artists from who he drew his inspiration, thus questioning the validity of Shepard Fairey's designs. Such accusations are documented on, a popular website inside the street wear community which offers a platform to expose plagiarism within the industry. More recently, in an interview with Mat Gleason, publisher of Coagula Art Journal and exhibition director at Gallery C in Hermosa Beach, California, this question of validity is brought up as the main theme of discussion. Gleason explains why, from a professional art critic's point of view, Shepard Fairey is not considered to be an artist, but rather a businessman "promoting the brand of Shepard Fairey as a corporate identity". Gleason compares the Obey campaign to the Coca-Cola campaign, in which both are similar by the fact that "they are both on the streets, they are both promoting a brand and at the end of the day it's a very empty experience". Gleason's conclusion that Shepard Fairey is the antithesis of the original graffiti artist is supported by his theory that "the original street artists that Shepard Fairey emulates have nothing to do with the same concerns", which are to create by necessity and urgency rather than by commercial motivation.



In response to Fairey’s solo exhibition, Imperfect Union, (December, 2007) at the Merry Karnowski Gallery in Los Angeles, California, Mark Vallen, renowned artist, activist, illustrator and curator criticizes Fairey's work and career as an artist, in a essay published on his Art for a Change web site. Vallen expresses his outrage at how Fairey has made a career "out of the consistent, secretive and wholesale copying of other people's artworks" and describes why, in his opinion, "it should make obvious that anyone so ill-informed should not be in the vanguard of today's political art". He identifies Fairey's work as "machine art that any second-rate art student could produce" by picking apart Fairey's heavy usage of "silly portraits of a dead wrestling champion" as well as "absurdist propaganda". Vallen acuses Fairey of "toying with the veneer of radical politics" when "his views are hollow and non-committal". Vallen also explains how Fairey is "deceiving people by pawning off counterfeit works as original creations" with numerous examples of original pieces shown side by side with Fairey's "lucrative OBEY fashion line" version. In the example of the White Panther logo, Vallen emphasizes that by "exploiting the panther logo for profit by printing it on boutique clothing, Fairey has accelerated the dehistoricization and commodification of American history", and in his opinion, "has forfeited his ability to speak as a dissident". He states that "Fairey is guilty of utilizing historic images simply because he "likes" them, and not because he has any grasp of their significance as objects of art or history". Vallen further supports that "Fairey simply filches artworks and hopes that no one notices" and that "these days any amateur with a minimally written crackpot manifesto can make waves in the world of art". If Fairey has "developed a profitable livelihood exclusively based on pilfering the artworks of others", Vallen ultimately asks "can Shepard Fairey honestly be described as an artist who can critically assess the unholy union of government and big business, or offer comments on the underpinnings of the capitalist machine?". Koloman Moser, Ralph "Bingo" Chaplin, Pirkle Jones, Rupert Garcia, Rene Mederos, Félix Beltrán and Gary Grimshaw are a few of the plagiarized artists that are mentioned in Vallen's critique.


Fairey’s work takes old advertisements and old propaganda posters and repurposes them to highlight the manipulation being carried out through visual media. His style’s been called “absurdist propaganda” for a reason. One that’s apparently lost on people who see the original pieces of propaganda and think “he stole!” Well, duh. But look at the repurposing. On the “gun” images, the original propagandist is trying to arouse your feelings to want to go off to war and fight for “your country (=some leader).” Fairey turns that line of thinking on its ear. In the Yellowstone piece, you have your government (National Park) telling us Yellowstone is a wonderful, magical place. In Fairey’s piece, he’s shedding light on the fact our government is telling us things in Iraq are better than they really are. See? Repurposing propaganda to illustrate the absurdity within or without.

Mark Vallen is simply trying to jumpstart his go-nowhere career by bashing someone who actually HAS one. It’s a time-honored tradition among the second-rate and failing. The fact that he passed out literature– including HIS OWN ART– amongst those standing in line at Fairey’s show ought to tell you he’s simply an opportunist out to raise his own profile. If he were truly interested in constructive dialogue he would have picked up the phone and made the local call to Fairey to ask him about it. Then, if he wasn’t satisfied with the answers– or at least wanted to include them– he could have offered up the other side of the coin. Instead, he posted a shrill call of “Look at Me!” in hopes of selling a few more canvases of his Jr. High caliber artwork. Pretty sad, really.

Jeremy Craigs

In response to shepards plagarism claims;

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