Konstnären Shepard Fairey (född år 1970) har skapat några av vår tids mest ikoniska bilder, från varumärket OBEY:s populära logga till porträttet från Obamas kampanj Hope. Fairey föddes i Charleston, South Carolina och utbildade sig på Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) där han utvecklade ett brinnande intresse för skateboardkultur och street art.

År 1989, medan han befann sig på RISD, skapade Fairey klistermärkekampampanjen André the Giant Has a Posse vilken i sin tur utvecklades till kampanjen Obey Giant, med syfte att väcka frågor om människans relation till sin omgivning. Hans OBEY-klistermärke nådde snabbt en fenomenlik status och sen dess har Shepard Fairey fortsatt att förundra världen med sitt konstnärskap, med allt från tryck och affischer till storskaliga väggmålningar och installationer genom vilka han kommenterar det sociala och politiska landskapet.

Två av Faireys mest populära verk, OBEY och HOPE. Två av Faireys mest populära verk, OBEY och HOPE.

Den här månaden har Fairey slagit sig samman med företaget VRt Ventures och skapat en app med namnet the Damaged app, vilken låter användare uppleva hans utställning Damaged från förra året med hjälp av virtuell verklighet. Utställningen består av väggmålningar, tryck och skulpturer tillsammans med Faireys egna kommentarer, där konstnären förklarar sina verk och dess roll i vår samtid.

Barnebys har träffat Shepard Fairey i ett samtal om hans konstnärskap, samarbetet med VRt Ventures och konstens framtid.

Fairey i arbete med ett av verken från Damaged. Fairey i arbete med ett av verken från Damaged.

Barnebys: Your exhibit Damaged creates a dialogue on the social, political and environmental issues that we are facing today. What do you believe is the responsibility for artists in the 21st century and yours in particular?

Shepard Fairey: I think art is an excellent way to convey ideas, and it has the advantage of provoking or seducing emotionally to initiate thoughts and conversations that might not otherwise happen intellectually. I don't think all artists have an obligation to make art about social or political issues, but I'm afraid that, unfortunately, many artists avoid speaking their mind based on their concern that topical art is not what the art world wants.

I think it is important for artists to have courage and speak their minds. I see my art as a combination of my aesthetic and philosophical interests. Just like great musicians have used their lyrics to comment on things, I want to do the same thing with my artwork even if the added layer of social commentary creates an additional problem to solve. The way things are going with certain issues including environmental destruction, wealth inequality and xenophobia, I think we all, not just artists, should use the tools we have to push things in a more just direction.

Stillbild från VRt Ventures app Damaged. Stillbild från VRt Ventures app Damaged.

Your collaboration with VRt Ventures is an important step towards making art exhibits accessible to everyone. What does this digital move mean for how artists create work and the future of art exhibition?

My hope is that artists are creating work mostly thinking about how it impacts people in person, but at the same time I think that time-consuming and expensive installations might make artists hesitant to invest in if an exhibition is only up for a month or so. It might seem more worth the effort if VR/AR technology can preserve the excitement of that three-dimensional space for anyone to experience after the show is down.

Air, Shepard Fairey. Foto: Paddle 8. Air, Shepard Fairey. Foto: Paddle 8.

What were your original inspirations when you began creating art and how have they evolved?

When I was young, I was only exposed to more traditional art, but I luckily saw some of Chuck Close's work at age 10. That experience led me to hone my skills toward photorealistic drawing. Later when I discovered skateboarding and punk rock, I got into making spray paint stencils and screen prints. I also saw for the first time the combination of graphic art and politics. For a long time I considered my fine art and my graphic art to be separate things, but during my time at the Rhode Island School of Design, the lines began to blur and now my art is a fusion of fine art, graphic art and photographic techniques all combined to illustrate a social or political concept that's important to me.

Tokyo Show, Shepard Fairey. Screentryck. Foto: Paddle 8. Tokyo Show, Shepard Fairey. Screentryck. Foto: Paddle 8.

What is your favorite work of yours and why?

The Obey Icon face is my favorite because I think it works at any scale, cuts through the clutter of the street and is an identifiable badge or stamp in much of my work. I like its versatility. I'm always excited about what I'm working on in the moment because my favorite part of art is pushing to solve the problem.

Fairey's "We Own the Future" väggmålning i New York City, 2014. Fairey's "We Own the Future" väggmålning i New York City, 2014.

What are your reflections on the transformation of the street art world in recent years and its role in the art market?

I'm happy that more people are interested in street art, and I'm happy that street artists that make fine art also are finding markets, but there is no such thing as sellable street art. Street art is on the street, fine art is done on something that can be turned into a sellable object. I think artists should be able to reach a lot of people but also survive.

Wrong Path från utställningen Damaged, 2017. Wrong Path från utställningen Damaged, 2017.

What is next for you? What projects are you currently working on?

I just launched the app version of my Damaged art show and then getting ready for some big news in 2019 to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the OBEY art project.

Sök efter Shepard Fairey direkt på Barnebys.