Working class heroes present Obey
Obey, AKA Shepard Fairey is arguably one of the world's most prolific street artist and whose work can been seen from the streets of New York to the Museum of Art in London. Shepard Fairey explained in 2008 in a magazine interview how Obey started by accident. Whilst studying at Rhodes Island School of Art and Design back in 1989, Shepard was teaching a friend how to stencil and there just happened to be a picture of Andre the Giant lying around. Shepard decided to make a stencil of that and started to spray it around Rhode Island.
The group his was hanging around with called themselves The Posse, hence the first slogan that ran with early Obey graffiti "Andre the Giant Has a Posse",which later become the name of critically acclaimed Helen Stickler documentary made in 1995. Hundreds of stickers and stencils were made and largely distributed through the skate community who helped Shepard and his Posse distribute the image of Andre the Giant all around the USA.
With threats of law suits in 1994 Shepard change the image of Andre the Giant, by cropping the centre and dropping the slogan "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" to plain and simple Obey.
Shepard states the Obey sticker campaign is an exercise in phenomenology where by the medium is the message so the point of the Obey campaign it the Obey campaign itself. The image and the sticker have no meaning and are merely there to make the viewer aware of the sticker and the viewer's surroundings. Most of us are not used to seeing images that are not directly linked to advertising so the Obey campaign causes us to question its purpose particularly if it is not linked to propaganda, other or advertising.
This then splits the viewer into two main categories: those who generally understand the point of the Obey campaign and find the stickers entertaining or amusing, feeling they are aesthetically pleasing. Then those who in general don't have an understanding of the Obey campaign and tend to believe there are hidden messages and revolutionary intentions. As such many Obey stickers and stencils have been removed under the grounds they are visually unattractive and merely acts of vandalism. Shepard Fairey remarks how ironic that these images should be removed considering the number of authorised adverts and images we are subjected to.
Obey now has a significant influence and presence it todays culture, not just limited to the skating, graffiti and street life subculture of its origin. Barack Obama has acknowledged the work of Shepard stating
your art, whether it is seen in a gallery or on a stop sign, has the ability to encourage Americans to question the status quo.
It can be argued Shepard's 'Hope' poster helped Barack Obama get elected as it encouraged younger more apathetic voters to take note and take part in the election.
Shepard recognised that there is now another distinct group of people that are aware of Obey but in a different way to those already mentioned. The 3rd group is largely made of up the consumptive members of society and whilst many are unaware of the message of the campaign they do see Obey as anti-establishment and rebellious and as such become a part of it. The underlying theme to the Obey manifesto is "All in the name if fun and observation"
Obey now has a whole range of clothing that continues to promote the "medium is the message" word of Shepard but also slightly poking fun at itself often choosing to use the slogan "Obey Propaganda". The most sort after Obey clothing in recent years has been the men's t shirt and Snapback caps, particularly those featuring the Obey Bar Logo or the Obey Icon Face. Other sort after t- shirts have been the Obey Trademark T-shirt which features the number 7-4, claimed to be Andre the Giant's height and 520 his weight in Lbs.
As the popularity of Starter Caps has grown, Obey Snapback caps have become almost impossible to keep in stock selling through in shops almost as soon as they arrive. The continuous rejuvenation of street culture and street wear see Obey clothing as much of a staple among its wearers as Vans Authenics and Obey Chinos.
Working Class Heroes.