BEYOND THE STREETS is here to put all art exhibitions to the dust. Curated by Roger Gastman, this is a multimedia showcase highlighting the evolution of modern art in its rawest form. This features the work of esteemed street and graffiti artists including Keith Haring, Jason REVOK, Futura 2000, Takashi Murakami, HAZE, Shepard Fairey, Lady Pink, and Guerilla Girls — to name a few.
Written By: Shirley Ju
May 6, 2018
Located in a huge warehouse near downtown Los Angeles, #BeyondTheStreets soon proved to be the mecca for all creatives, journalists, artists, entrepreneurs, and even fans. The 40,000 square feet of industrial indoor and outdoor space is strategically filled with everything from paintings to sculptures to photography and interactive installations.
Ahead of opening day on May 6th, I was honored to attend an advanced media preview with some notable talent in attendance. I spoke with Shepard Fairey – one of the most influential contemporary street artists of our time. Not only is he recognized as the founder of OBEY clothing, but his passion and ability to speak freely of the social injustices of the world is widely-recognized around the world.
Can you talk about being part of Beyond The Streets?
Shepard Fairey: I’m really happy to be a part of this because this is probably the most comprehensive street art and graffiti show that I think has ever been put together. Art in the Streets at MOCA was a really fantastic show which Roger was part of as well. He was a curator of that. But this, I think, is even bigger. It has some of the same people but some different people. I’m impressed by the range of styles, approaches, concepts, and materials. I just think it’s a really, really exciting show because a lot of people look at street art and graffiti very one dimensionally. And there’s so many different, unexpected manifestations of that kind of work here.
Obey is such a prominent brand in street wear culture. What’s been the biggest obstacle throughout the years as the world evolves?
Shepard Fairey: When it comes to clothing, it’s a very shallow world – fashion. I’m trying to do what I believe in aesthetically because a t-shirt is a great utilitarian canvas, but you also have to struggle with all the ways in which the market is shifting, the way trends move, and to be true to who I am as a designer — for the brand to maintain its authenticity but also it’s relevance within this vast sea of variables in the fashion world. That’s the biggest challenge. It’s a very, very tough business but I’m also really grateful that my partners in the clothing brand respect who I am as an artist. And they don’t want to chase trends. They want to make sure that the brand has integrity. And the revenue that I get from the clothing has given me a lot of freedom on bigger projects and also given me opportunities to do things for a lot of charities through our Obey awareness programs. To me, a t-shirt is just another format for me to spread my imagery out there. And I try to be accessible, so I’m happy that I have that. But there are challenges with this sort of inherent evolution of fashion and some of the frustrating shallow aspects of fashion.
What’s been the most memorable moment thus far that made you realize you had an impact on the culture?
Wow. I think when Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie reached out to me. And they had seen my work all around New York City and they wanted to work together. A lot of my heroes – Iggy Pop. There are a lot of things that are cool, in terms of an image of mine showing up in a movie or getting the Obama Hope poster in a national portrait gallery. But really, it’s the validation from peers — well people who were heroes, but now have become peers — that I respect from the worlds of art and music.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Shepard Fairey?
Live frugally. Be tenacious. Create a look that is, of course, aligned with your vision, but doesn’t look like what anyone else is doing. And if people tell you you’re not doing it right, be your own harshest critic and trust your instincts. Because you’re the only one that knows exactly what you want to achieve, so you have to be honest with yourself.