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OBEY, Andre the giant has a name

September 26, 2011

Fairey and fellow RISD student Ryan Lesser, along with Blaize Blouin, Alfred Hawkins, and Mike Mongo, created paper and vinyl stickers and posters with an image of the wrestler André the Giant and the text “ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A POSSE 7′ 0″, 520 lb”, (“7’0, 520lbs” being Andre The Giant’s famously billed height and weight) as an in-joke directed at hip hop and skater subculture, and then began clandestinely (and somewhat fanatically) propagating and posting them in Providence, Rhode Island and the rest of the Eastern United States.
In an interview with Format magazine in 2008, Fairey said: “The Andre The Giant sticker was just a spontaneous, happy accident. I was teaching a friend how to make stencils in the summer of 1989, and I looked for a picture to use in the newspaper, and there just happened to be an ad for wrestling with Andre The Giant and I told him that he should make a stencil of it. He said ‘Nah, I’m not making a stencil of that, that’s stupid!” but I thought it was funny so I made the stencil and I made a few stickers and the group of guys I was hanging out with always called each other The Posse, so it said Andre The Giant Has A Posse, and it was sort of appropriated from hip-hop slang – Public Enemy, NWA and Ice-T were all using the word.”
By the early 1990s, tens of thousands of paper and then vinyl stickers were photocopied and hand-silkscreened and put in visible places throughout the world.
“Andre The Giant Has a Posse” is also the title of a 1995 documentary short by Helen Stickler, which was the first documentary to feature Shepard Fairey and chronicle his influential street art campaign. The film screened worldwide, most notably in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. In 2003 Village Voice film critic Ed Halter described the film as “legendary … a canonical study of a Gen-X media manipulation. One of the keenest examinations of ’90s underground culture.”

OBEY Giant poster on building exterior
Threat of a lawsuit from Titan Sports, Inc. in 1994 [2] spurred Fairey to stop using the trademarked name André the Giant, and to create a more iconic image of the wrestler’s face, now most often with the equally iconic branding OBEY. The “OBEY” slogan was not only a parody of propaganda, but also a direct homage to the “OBEY” signs found in the 1988 cult classic film, They Live, starring Roddy Piper. About “Obey,” San Diego Union-Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus says Fairey’s work, “was a reaction against earlier political art, since it delivered no clear message. Still, “Obey” was suggestively antiauthoritarian.”[3] “Following the example set by gallery art, some street art is more about the concept than the art,” writes The Walrus (magazine) contributor Nick Mount. “’Fuck Bush’ isn’t an aesthetic; it’s an ethic. Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant stickers and Akay’s Akayism posters are clever children of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” [4]

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