Shepard Fairey IS Obey Giant
Shepard Fairey has gained relative fame as a  counter-culture artist, and thus has become a bit of  an icon of puplic art. However recently he has been  seen, especially by purists of street art and graffiti,  as a ‘sellout’ or slave to the man that he supposedly  rebels against. Subverting his subversions seems a  natural response. Re-claiming the territory and  asserting that the place and the message of obey  has changed, and no longer belongs under the  direction of its instigator.      I do this simply by playing with his iconic images.  Replacing or mixing and matching components to  recycle the message and turn it in on itself. Shepard’s message to “obey” has been a   commentary on society’s blind obedience and  complacency, and it is ironic that he became an icon  with an element of a cult fo following himself.      It seems poignant that the overlay of Shepard’s  famous Obey Giant stencil upon his own face seems  to and suit so well, and feels as if it were naturally  meant to be this way. The makeup serves as a mask, alluding to the anonymity, and the concealed nature of true subversive street art.  Because, perhaps, a subversive piece can only have true impact if it is ‘by the anonymous masses’. But the makeup also turns Shepard  into a performer. His eyes become cold and sad - complete with tear flows lines comiserating the irony of his change (and suggesting  regret). And the calmed, saddened, worn thinness contrasts with the ever associated command to “obey” shouted out in large, bold  text.      The depiction of Shepard himself giving a command continues the theme that the subjugator has become the subject, that the  command to question must now be questioned, that ‘selling out’ must recieve the same focal attantion as its’ activist once dished out,  and the un-suredness of the whole situation.      A mugshot style photograph points out that Shepard has sinned against his society. And the context of the sin frames his photo  depicting the way that he has created his own circumstance, designing the very graphic that now brings question to him and any  message he now tries to offer.      By being the example of how an individual can be either against the system or a part of it, but never both, Shepard speaks of the  juxtaposition in all of us who would fight the system, or design and implement a better version, if it weren’t for the inescapable need to  survive by feeding from the corrupt version that is in place. So that we empathise with the cold emotive face because we are him. And  we recognise that as the image is a blend, so has the concept of Obey Giant evolved through integration with its creator, to make new  and newly relevant social commentary. In the blend, dominance, aggression and ferral reaction has become sadness, guilt, and  complacency.      The new command of “don’t obey” both speaks of how the sails have lost their gusto behind the original command to “OBEY”. And  the inclusion of both commands brings out the lost emphasis as we no longer know exactly what the message should be, who we should  trust and listen to and follow.