Last season there was a Simpsons episode where Bart becomes a street artist with the help of special guest star Shephard Fairey, because it’s impossible for a Simpson to develop a new skill without meeting the most famous people associated with that skill. Fairey’s perhaps best known nowadays for making that weird Soviet propaganda-ish Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008, but back in “the day” his claim to fame was the OBEY Giant campaign where he’d plaster stickers or spraypaint images of deceased wrestler Andre the Giant (later redesigned to avoid copyright infringement) everywhere – without permission! – with the word “OBEY” under it, which may have provided the inspiration for such cultural touchstones as internet memes and Microsoft advertising. For the episode, The Simpsons cleverly “mashed up” Fairey’s two pieces into a “parody” (using the term very lightly) featuring Homer’s face and the word “Dope.”
Anyway, the Associated Press sued him over the “Hope” poster (apparently they own the rights to Obama’s likeness??) and won. Last September a federal court sentenced him to two years’ probation and fined him $25,000. Now where’s an avant-garde street artist supposed to get scratch like that??
Easy: by cranking out some sweet merch for a billion-dollar franchise owned by a neo-conservative tyrant, like any self-respecting artist. The Shepster apparently “teamed up” with The Simpsons (who knows what exactly that entails) to create some tacky posters and iPhone cases of the Homer “Dope” design, which they’re selling exclusively through Urban Outfitters, the official outfitter of urbanites.
So, basically Shephard Fairey is selling parodies of his own work. Or, in other words, he’s entered the post-irony metahucksterism phase of his artistic career. Vive l’art!