Shepard Fairey’s work serves as a reflection on the damaged state of politics, media, human rights and more. His focus on social issues has garnered support by everyone from Hip-Hop legend LL Cool J to Black Flag band member Henry Rollins. We were able to connect with one of Fairey’s collaborators John Tracy and he shared stories with us that highlight Basquiat, Warhol and the start of clothing company OBEY.
Written By: Shirley Ju
April 13, 2018
So, who is Shepard Fairey? Besides being the founder of OBEY Clothing, Fairey is a contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist, muralist and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. His rendering of Andre the Giant is iconic in skate culture and even HBO highlighted the prominent wrestling character in their new documentary released this week. Fairey’s work turns heads and is recognizable worldwide for its ability to combine elements of graffiti, pop art and Marxist theory.
In the words of Fairey: “[My art] is an honest diagnosis. Diagnosis is the first step to recognizing and solving problems. I definitely think that art can be part of the solution because it can inspire people to look at an issue they might otherwise ignore or reject.”
Fairey often inspires audiences with his solo work, but he also collaborates with other talented artists like Ernesto Yerena-Montejano and John Tracy. Upon further research I came to find the humble Tracy is a resident photographer at The Lexington Hotel NYC. He was also chosen by Paige Powell a celebrated photographer, consultant to Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine and ex-girlfriend of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, to be the resident artist during a 46 million-dollar project.
“[Powell] is such a brilliant curator and artist and photographer. [She] was a consultant to Andy Warhol and the ex-girlfriend of Jean-Michel Basquiat. It was more than an honor to work with her….
This loving connection to New York is apparent in Tracy’s latest installation, which I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of at Fairey’s “Damaged” exhibition. After chatting with Tracy about the inspiration behind the phone booth he revealed, “My inspiration for my art series, City of Dreams, [is the] New York City lifestyle — the culture as seen and heard through music, and its endearing sense of charm and romance through the stunning one-of-a-kind city landscapes. I’ve found that the experience of just being in the city is always worth the trip. Through all of its astonishing sights and sounds, it leaves one marveling.”
Upon further examination of the phone booth, I realized the words “amplify your voice” were etched into the side. Tracy believes, “we should all amplify our voice in different genres of whatever your creativity or your artistry may be. Whether you’re a rapper like…Black Thought or you’re someone like Henry Rollins, I believe everyone should amplify their voice.”
We agree with Tracy. Everyone should amplify their voices especially in today’s political climate. We believe society prospers when unconventional thoughts float into mainstream society. So we are inspired by Fairy, Tracy and the OBEY crew. Can you blame us? After reading this article we hope you’re inspired to create because you never know where it will take you. More insights from Tracy on the start of Obey and his anti-establishment sentiments can be found below. If after reading you feel compelled to take to the streets with a can of spray paint to tag a few buildings, just try not to get caught.
“When this Obey thing started, it was Andre the Giant Has A Posse,” said Tracy. “It was like a…movement of art kids and skateboard kids. I don’t know if anybody expected it to ever be as big as this. It was really about anarchy in a way and it was disobedient in a way — to go out there and put up the stickers illegally and to skateboard illegally and to do what we did. It was just the way that we were. I believe fighting against the hand of the corporations that are controlling us or keeping us down. [We need to] keep moving forward with that positive momentum and that positive mental attitude. Nothing can hold us back. Nothing will stop us!”