Obama posters' artist seized on graffiti warrants

The Baltimore Sun

The red, white and blue "Hope" posters bearing the image of Barack Obama brought worldwide fame to the Los Angeles street artist who created them and arguably helped their subject win the White House.

But Shepard Fairey, a guerrilla artist willing to go to jail for his distinctive graffiti, hasn't gone entirely mainstream.

Fairey was arrested Friday night in Boston on his way to the Institute of Contemporary Art for a kickoff event for his first solo exhibition, Supply and Demand. Two warrants had been issued for Fairey on Jan. 24 after police determined he had tagged property in two locations with his street art campaign featuring Andre the Giant and the word "Obey," said Boston police officer James Kenneally.

Fairey, a commercial artist and graphic designer, is expected to be arraigned tomorrow, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney. The Associated Press reported that Fairey was released on bail a few hours after his arrest.

Fairey's Obama image, which has been sold on hundreds of thousands of stickers and posters, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington before Obama's inauguration.

But the artist is embroiled in a dispute with the Associated Press over whether he illegally used a copyrighted AP photo to produce his Obama poster.

Fairey had spent the past two weeks in Boston installing his solo exhibition at the institute, giving sold-out public talks, being honored by the Rhode Island School of Design (his alma mater) and creating and unveiling outdoor artworks. Those included a 20-by-50-foot banner called "Peace Goddess" on the north side of City Hall and two murals on the Tufts University campus.

The Boston Globe reported that Fairey, who was influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, said he had been arrested 14 times. Because of the arrest Friday, he was unable to serve as DJ for that night's sold-out "Experiment" party at the institute, where more than 750 people were waiting for his appearance.

"The street thing is an outlet for me," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. "It's the freedom of it that's really exciting."

He added: "I don't have this obsessive need to do street art all the time because it's already opened doors for me. I'm now able to do things that won't be cleaned in a day, that won't get me arrested."

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