Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sherwin Williams Paint vs. The Obey Giant

This is how Shepard Fairey was brought to my attention: a guy noticed the Andre the Giant Obey shirt I had on. The guy said: "I haven't seen those out here much. They are all over the east. The Andre the Giant posters started popping up in South Carolina."  I asked: "Who is the artist?"  The guy thought it was a homeless man who died and never got credit. I googled Obey later that day. Fairey.

The pictures were an excuse to delve into the problem with Fairey. The "cover the earth" knock off has not been reported anywhere even with the recent scrutiny surrounding the AP suing Fairey over his Obama Poster. The Obama Poster was as commercial as it gets, it was the freaking official symbol of the candidate who became president.  How much more corporate, how much more established can it get?   He has been a corporate for so long now and what does that mean maybe corporate means successful. I had a feeling about the Obama Poster, it reminded me of an Warhol-like iconic image, and coincidentally -- an AP writer called the print Warhol-ish. Andy Warhol said, "art is whatever you can get away with." I wondered is Fairey got away with stealing the Obey logo from the homeless man.

I don't quite know what Fairey does, or what I think of it. There is this sense that he doesn't know what he is trying to say.  I would dare to say that most of us -- truthfully -- don't really know what we are trying to say and by the time we have said "it" -- our minds have changed anyways and so we must work on communicating the current thought.  But that may not be the main issue.  Ken Johnson did a great piece in the NYT about Fairey's work and what it meant. 

In the interest of full exposure -- I like the Andre the Giant Obey insignia. It has a mysterious haunting feeling -- that may have more to do with Andre the Giant -- the man than the image. The Obama Poster is the same way -- we have latched onto it because of what we see in Obama himself. We took part ownership. Back when people wanted Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" lyrics translated -- Eddie Vedder did not explain what they meant. He said fans interpreted the lyrics for themselves -- lending more meaning than he could have given. He said they were part owners of the song. Part ownership makes something become iconic. Gives the creator the ability to go further and see the next step or level of the work: how it was received and in turn grows larger and larger with each re-interpretation or re-telling of the the work.

I am not really in the mood to trash a whole body of work. I think its important to point out that the Obama Poster has become -- something more, than Fairey could have planned for and a lot of that had to do with the mood of the country the rise of Obama, that he has come to stand for many different things to many different people. The AP picture and the way Fairey manipulated it into a sort of patriotic portrait. All these ingredients made way for part ownership by the masses to be the inevitable outcome. What do you feel when you look at it? It represents the colors in our country. The poster has been in many of the houses I have painted for. The so called street artist entered into the suburban stay at home white women's living room. For whatever reason -- the print conjures up the mix of hope, pride and belief we have in Obama. That is a lot. Think of all the art and pictures and comics the President has been the subject of, but for some reason this "one" print represents that feeling we have been walking around with for the last two years. Just because you draw a pic of Obama does not mean whey we look at it a hopeful full feeling will come over us. 

Fairey has a history of no transparency. Fairey slaps his Obey Giant logo on the watcher from Citizen Kane or the MC5's logo and calls it a new print. Unless you happen to know the original -- you think its an original by Fairey.

Wow, I had no idea I was writing this, I went into it, thinking Fairey was wrong to steal, but now -- I just think he is tacky and not creative. I don't get the feeling that he is wrestling with how to say something in order to adequately make a piece that challenges common perceptions. He never gave credit to the original piece.  Put a a foot note at the bottom of each print.  Something like: the original logo is Sherwin Williams paint supply.  I tweaked it by inserting the Obey logo where a map of the world originally was.  It wouldn't take much, like when a writer quotes someone else's words, but credits the author.

He fell into the same lazy old guy looking back and believing the legend drinking the cool aid of his brilliant First Work.  Hunter S.Thompson did that too.  How many times can one use Fear and Loathing for a title, how many times can a guy stamp Andre the Giant on a print and feel edgy and cool?  You jumped the shark once you had a logo you couldn't let go of and you became a product a brand -- for some reason in our culture the brand has become the most important thing -- Once Hunter said it sucks when the author becomes bigger than the writing.  

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

North By Northwest

Dave and I were discussing the Sonics move last night and we wondered,when the Sonics do eventually move to OK City, will they take all the retired jersey's and Championship banners with them and raise them to the rafters in the Ford Center? We also wondered if Clay Bennett would be nice enough to offer true Sonic "diehards" a weekend discounted package to be able to fly to Oklahoma City and get some great seats for the night they retire Gary Payton's jersey and celebrate his great career as a Sonic...

American professional sports are a complete joke. I could care less about the NBA or the Sonics and I consider the NBA, as a whole, to be comparable to that of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The people of this city should focus their energy on boycotting Starbucks and running Howard Schultz out of town than wasting their time and resources on Clay Bennett and a situation that is hopeless. It's not as depressing if you've already accepted the fact that it's over, like I have, but how about the Storm signing Sheryl Swoopes? I smell another WNBA Championship on the horizon!!! Go STORM Baby!!!

PS- Shouldn't Seattle's greatest fan (that guy who holds up the Sea-Fence" sign at Seahawk games), shouldn't he be doing something like handcuffing himself to the bumper of the team bus or to the landing gear of the team plane? I mean, you are Seattle's biggest fan so go out there and do something about this. The city is relying on you and your passion...I haven't heard a peep from that guy. What a joke...

- Cod the Fish on the fate of the Seattle SuperSonics.

My phone keeps ringing but I will not answer anytime soon. I have bigger fish to fry. I sit here in Seattle with a keyboard in my lap perched on a pearl white yoga ball. Here in the Northwest we are under a dark cloud. This may not be much of a big deal for the rest of the country. Sadly Seattle is relegated to weird looks from much of America. We are thought of as almost Alaska to so many. It is a deeply disturbing and hurtful thing for us natives. We are a proud people and know we are right and true. We have supported Obama like no other territory in the Empire and done the same for Ron Paul. Recently 40% of registered Republicans in these parts have been projected to support Paul in November even though his name will not be on the ballot. But never mind that. This is not a political story.

This is about basketball and 41 years of support for the Seattle Supersonics and now they are on the way to Oklahoma City. A foreigner bought the team from the king of a coffee empire named Howard Schulz who sold the team because the city would not give him a new arena. It was a childish and spiteful move by Schulz and he has paid for his stupid decision. These days his beloved coffee brand Starbucks is slipping down the Dow Jones and I know many people who routinely slap Starbucks cups from a person’s hand if seen on the street with it. It is no longer fashionable to drink the stuff.

Schulz is suing Bennet to get the rights to the team back. He is trying to save face because he knows his image is suffering and will forever be blamed for the reason we lost the team. In Seattle we have a shoddy history with sports. The Mariners have always sucked. And now in 2008 the Year of the Rat, the Mariners have the worst record in Major League Baseball. As a kid growing up the Seahawks were awful and now they are finally good, but for me it has been a hard thing to get used to. They are not a proud franchise in my mind and most people I know are more excited for the first year of Major League Soccer with the Sounders FC. Owner Drew Carey has done everything right following in the tradition of European teams with a board of members that can vote in or vote out the manager of the team and voting on the name for the team. All very classy and elegant decisions.

It was a sad day when Commissioner David Stern decided it was a better to make Seattle the premier WNBA city with the Storm Juggernaut and get rid of the Sonics the most hallowed franchise in Seattle sports history. The Sonics have always been good except for a few recent years where they have been treated like the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League where they purposely built the worst possible team they could so it was easier to move them. And in real life the Cleveland Browns situation may be the closest resemblance to what we face. Same thing in Seattle. So now our fate is the WNBA hall of fame which will be built here soon. We can all look forward to that as the WNBA hall of fame takes over Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project.

I took the picture of the GP poster inside the Key @ the last Sonics game I ever went to.

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