Rise Above Famous Street Artist Shepard Fairey Doin Dallas

By: Allison Hibbs

For the first time in 10 years, Shepard Fairey is in Dallas! Invited by the non-profit art forum, Dallas Contemporary, as part of their Citywide Street Project, he is leaving his signature mark on buildings around the city. A graphic artist and old-school skateboarder, Fairey is probably best known in the mainstream for his 2008 poster depicting a stylized version of then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama, along with the single word: Hope.

Among those familiar with the street art movement, however, Fairey – with his Andre the Giant logo featuring the word ‘Obey’ – has long been iconic of the pioneering work that he and others have done to legitimize the subculture as an accepted, if often politically subversive and irreverent, art form. Along with Basquiat in the 80s and later artists such as world-famous anonymous prankster, Bansky, street artists like Fairey have elevated graffiti into a meaningful form of expression, rebellion and catharsis in the United States, across Europe and in Australia.

Movies such as “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary made by the elusive Banksy and featuring work by Fairey, chronicle the progression, techniques and motivations behind this growing movement. (Although many consider the film to be another one of Bansky’s pranks, Fairey and the film’s central character, Thierry Guetta, deny all such accusations.)  Put simply, the goal of these artists is two-fold: to make use of and beautify unused, often unsightly, urban spaces, and to make people stop and think as they go about the usual business of their days. Many dedicated street artists work uncompromisingly (and often under the cover of night) to realize these goals. Of course, they also seem to have a good deal of fun in the process.

In the wake of chaos caused by Wall Street in 2007, Banksy pieces started showing up around New York City depicting his iconic rat (an anagram for ‘art’), which showed the artist’s obvious distain for the moral bankruptcy of those who were the architects of the financial disaster.

Obama poster notwithstanding, much of Fairey’s work tends to be less overtly political – necessitating individual thought and introspection – although several are obvious admonishments against war and global warming. Lately, he has even come out in support of the nationwide movement known as Occupy with an image of Guy Fawkes that plays off of his ’08 Hope poster. What, according to Fairey, began as a fun project to entertain college friends has evolved into an art form aimed at shaking people out of their passive acceptance of societal norms.

Working with the local street art collective, Sour Grapes, Fairey had completed four murals as of Feb. 3 in two locations in West Dallas. Dallas Contemporary has indicated that he will do at least eight more before he leaves, at least one of which is to be located in the area known as Deep Ellum. Three of the murals are located at 331 and 340 Singleton Blvd., near I-30 and I-35E in West Dallas. Another adorns the side of Dallas Contemporary, at 161 Glass Street, where Fairey has also been invited to guest DJ at a sold-out  “neon-inspired dance party” on the night of Saturday, Feb. 4. If these murals have a theme, he told the Dallas Observer, “It’s peace and harmony.” The woman in two of the murals, he says, is his wife.

A bus tour been organized for Saturday, Feb. 11, which is to include stops at the murals and a studio visit with Sour Grapes, as well as visits to exhibits at Dallas Contemporary featuring Rob Pruitt, David Jablonowski and Failure. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online.

In Spite of Sundance Success, Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is Difficult to Distribute

A Banksy maid sweeps up the messy streets

A statement made possible by the mysterious Banksy

Though a frenzied crowd of hundreds lined up hours before its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the success of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a documentary by the English enigmatic artist, Banksy, still failed to find an interested distributer.

Banksy is the notorious creator behind spontaneous street art that is both politically jostling, and – at times – absolutely hilarious. Two well-known examples of Banksy’s political humor are his portrayals of two male police officers locking lips, and a chimpanzee with the face of the Queen of England.

The film is an examination into the roots of the guerilla art scene – and concurrently traces the rise of Thierry Guetta, Banksy’s videographer – which develops into a sly satirical rendition of the art world, the celebrity and consumerism. And, though it wasn’t sold to a distributor after all the love it received at Sundance, Cinetic Media developed the Producers Distribution Agency, with full intentions of releasing the movie.

One of the more politically-charged works

John Sloss,  Cinectic’s principal, feels that the do-it-youself model is the best way to handle a film like”Exit Through the Gift Shop.” In a situation where neither the star nor the filmmaker are available for promotion, the success depends on using Banksy’s mystery as a selling point.

And, considering how many people showed up in 15-degree weather in hopes of admittance, there’s no reason to doubt that the movie will eventually find its way into theaters.

Hip Hop Documentary Screened at Akron Art Museum in Ohio

Akron Art Museum

Yesterday, the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio held a free screening of Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary film by long-time hip-hop fan, Byron Hurt.  This film was one of the official selections of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and is a very personal journey beyond the bling, which strives to paint a well-rounded picture of the complex blend of masculinity, sexism and homophobia through the eyes of aspiring rap artists, the fans who attendhip-hop events all over the country, and those who have gained fame as esteemed hip-hop celebrities. Hurt uses interviews with hip-hopcelebrities like Russell Simmons, D12, Fat Joe, KRS-ONE, Dougie Fresh, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Clipse, Sarah Jones, Toni Blackman, Chuck D, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes, to explore how modern-day hip-hop culture influences present-day society.

It was presented in association with the Akron Art Museum exhibit Pattern ID, due to artists in the show, like Kehinde Wiley, Mark Bradford and iona rozeal brown, who were inspired by hip-hop culture, and found ways to incorporate it into their own works of art.

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a significant discussion concerning one of the most influential art forms of our generation; fortunately, the folks at the Akron Art Museum aren’t the only ones to see the value of this independent film, since it is also going to be used in a nation-wide outreach campaign, made possible by Firelight Media, the Independent Television Service, God Bless the Child Productions, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Twenty-First Century Foundation.