Wait, what? Is that Shepard Fairey putting up a mural in broad daylight on La Brea at 11 a.m.? The cops are going to stop him any second!
Fairey is the street artist who rose to fame in 2008 when his Obama "Hope" poster became the emblem of an era, and was a major player in the 2010 Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, where you see him and other street artists hastily plastering their creations on rooftops at 3 a.m. That was my image of street artists, not casual crews chatting and spray-painting in the noon-day sun.
"This is a legal wall," Fairey explained. "I used to put stuff illegally on the roof of this place all the time. Then all of a sudden they stopped cleaning it off." Turns out they liked it. They liked it so much they asked for a full building mural. For free, pretty please. And Fairey agreed.
"They" is Madison Marquette, a building company that specializes in "modern lifestyle centers," aka fancy outdoor malls. They are turning the former Continental Graphics buildings on La Brea between 1st and 2nd into District La Brea: a collection of restaurants, designers, and galleries meant to reflect the artistic energy of the neighborhood.
Madison Marquette is partnering with the art exhibition house MK2 Projects to inaugurate the mural with a two-week art exhibit in the space featuring original artwork by Fairey, Deedee Cheriel, Mercedes Helnwein and other L.A. artists.
When asked if Madison Marquette was paying him for his wall, which would certainly attract patrons to its hip stores and galleries, Fairey said they were just covering the paint.
"Usually when I get a legal wall it just means I don't have to look over my shoulder for the police," he explained. "For me the important thing is that the work is in public and it's free for the audience. For years, I couldn't get my work out in public any other way than to just do it illegally....It's really great to have a legal wall."
Fairey first became recognized in the art scene for his "Andre the Giant Has A Posse" stickers which became the OBEY GIANT campaign. His work is often considered subversive and something a corporate building company might not find compatible with their mission. He recently designed a party invitation for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"They were really worried about any of the content being controversial," Fairey said of his negotiations with the building owners. "I kept true to my own work...and went with pro nature, pro peace." He showed me his graphic design prints for the mural: a hand with a watch embedded in it, reading "High Time For Peace," and a monkey pod tree adorned with peace lanterns and leaves lapping at the familiar face of The Giant.
Reflecting on his choice to accept the free wall despite it's regulations, Fairey said, "The great thing about the illegal stuff is that there's no bureaucracy, you know? Say what you want to say. But the downside is the impermanence. This will stay up for theoretically, years." Fairey's mural has all the beauty, energy, and silent strength his work always possesses and this message just happens to be one that forward-thinking corporate clients and the 99 percent can both embrace.
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Drive by the corner of La Brea and 2nd street sometime before Friday and you might catch a glimpse of Shepard Fairey adorning his free wall with free art for all by the light of day.
The group exhibition will run from Friday, Nov. 11 through Saturday, Nov. 26 at MK2 Projects, 161 S. La Brea Avenue. To RSVP for the mural unveiling / opening reception for on Friday, Nov. 11 from 7-10 p.m., email firstname.lastname@example.org or
call (323) 933-4408