A San Diego take on the international street art phenomenon
Only a few weeks after Shepard Fairey finished work on a mural covering the side of an Urban Outfitters store in San Diego, someone else made his or her mark on top of it, sullying its crisp black, white and red graphics with a sprawling blue tag. The Fairey mural had been commissioned as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s exhibition “Viva la Revolución: A Dialogue With the Urban Landscape.” The graffiti response was anonymous and unsolicited.
Not exactly the kind of dialogue the museum had in mind, but also not entirely unexpected. “I felt very badly when I first saw it,” says museum director Hugh Davies. “It looked like an attack, a wound. But Shepard was so gracious about it. He said it’s part of being in the public domain. A lot of edgy graffiti artists no longer respect him because they feel he’s become part of the establishment, making clothes and doing ads, and this was the expression of that rage.”
Fairey, who lives and works in L.A., has become the household name of street art for his ubiquitous “OBEY” graphics and his Obama “Hope” poster. The U.K.-based provocateur Banksy is up there too, infamous for his street stencils, outrageous actions (an installation in L.A. a few years ago featured a live, painted elephant) and, most recently, the bitingly entertaining documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
The San Diego exhibition, which runs through Jan. 2 at the museum’s downtown facility, proposes that both artists are part of a broad, international phenomenon situated simultaneously on the street, in art venues and within popular culture.
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Photo: Shepard Fairey's "Obey Eye (Never Trust)" mixed media mural, part of the exhibition. Credit: Geoff Hargadon