Shepard Wraps Wynwood

When Tony Goldman had the vision for the Wynwood Walls project, the artwork of famed street artist Shepard Fairey found another home.

The iconic work of Fairey’s, the artist behind the famed Obama campaign poster and the Andre the Giant image emblazoned with the word “Obey”, has now found its way indoors in another of Goldman’s projects – along with his daughter Jessica Goldman Srebnick – at the soon to be open Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 N.W. 2nd Ave., Miami).

The space, which is set to open on Friday, Nov. 26 and is just north of Joey’s restaurant, features a bar area that is wrapped in Fairey’s pop art from floor to ceiling. After receiving blue prints for the space and dimensions for the walls, it was a blank canvas for Fairey to create whatever he wanted. One can’t help but stare at the mix of modular murals and distressed designs, discovering intricate hidden details in his work, all while enjoying a cocktail or some bar food.

The merger between art and dining reaches a new level at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, and Fairey’s work only accentuates the energy prevalent in the Wynwood area.

We caught up with Fairey to discuss his latest project, how he got involved, and what’s up with his DJ skills.

So how did you get involved with the project?
Well, I worked with Tony Goldman up in New York. I did a big mural there and he liked how that turned out and he let me know that he and his daughter Jessica were going to be opening this restaurant here and he asked if I would be interested in doing something indoor as well as a logo for the restaurant.

For me, as a graphic designer and artist, I have done both and really like when they work well together. So rather than do a mural here and have someone slap a logo somewhere else, I liked the idea that I could control several aspects of the presentation of the space and I think it’s great that it’s just an extension of what is on the wall outside.

There are a lot of people who I think don’t go out of their way to visit museums and galleries, but there are a lot of people who like to get good food and drink and my work has always been about cross-pollinating and putting my work in front of different people in places they may just go to on their daily travels, whether it’s on a record package or a T-shirt. So I think this was a great opportunity to put work in front of people who may not have even bothered to go out and see this wall but they will come in here, eat and maybe get turned on to this whole mural project, and not just my work.

What was your inspiration for the area that houses the bar?
The biggest difference between the indoor work and the outdoor work is that it won’t be affected by the weather. People might be sitting right next to it for longer periods of time, so I am trying to do be a little bit more precise about it. In the outdoor, the broad strokes can look good, but up close, once you go indoors, there needs to be a little more craftsmanship. Luckily with my work there is a little bit of distressing that adds to it, so I can get away with some texture and imperfections. But also dealing with how the windows and vents and various structures within the space are going to work with the art work around it is important.

Was there an “a-ha” moment in your career when you knew you were on to something much bigger than just street art?
I think around 2000 I started to be able to make some money from selling posters and making art and though it took several more years before I could do that primarily because my income used to be all graphic design, I felt like it was headed in that direction. There were a couple of magazine articles where they called me the Godfather of Street Art or Guerilla Marketing and said that I had come up with an iconic style of art that people were copying. More of what other people were saying that I was a reference point rather than how I felt, persay. I never let this sort of press compliments or press criticisms go to my head. I am sensitive, so sometimes the mean stuff hurts my feelings. But I learned to trust my instincts even when what I do is a dialogue. I try and be my own critic and if I achieve what I am trying to achieve then I just keep rolling with it. It has seemed to serve me pretty well.

Has there been an image that captured a moment better than the rest?
The one image that seemed to pretty well capture a moment was the Obama Hope poster. Very few images achieve a critical mass like that one did. But that was standing on the shoulders of all the other things I had done that when you look at the chain reaction that went into having that image become pervasive, it was largely fueled by people who knew my work and knew that once the image was made and ended up in the street in physical form, that it wasn’t just a jpeg that got emailed around. I think that tangible side of it, building upon my history, really helped those early adopters disseminate it and of course the person that deserves the most credit is Obama for being a compelling candidate.

When you finished that poster did you say to yourself, ‘That is really good. It’s goint to knock their socks off!’?
The one thing about the Obama poster is that I felt like it was a pretty good illustration and good graphic design taking into consideration the very, very narrow parameters of political art in the United States. Most of it is so bad and so generic that anything that had a little bit of personality and a different approach and a little style is going to really stand out within that genre of art. So do I think it’s a spectacular image within my entire body of art – average. Within the realm of political art I think it was avant-garde.

Who are the next set of street artists that we should be looking at now?
There is a wave of street artists that utilize screen printing and stenciling that definitely has some influence from me. There is a guy named Vills from Spain and he chips iconic images out of walls with a chisel so it’s literally etched into the brick. And sometimes he does the same thing where he takes advertising posters where they have become very thick and chips out a new image. I think there is a lot of excitement for street art and pop art right now. Art is being taken more seriously in all realms of culture right now. There are a lot of people who are pushing things because it’s not just a dead end. A lot of graffiti artists thought it was a fun mischief and a hobby, but there is no future in it.

But didn’t you change that road map for street artists?
I like to think I did, but some call me a sellout for changing that road map. But I look at it as artists should be able to share their work in public and make a living for what they are doing without feeling guilty about it. Just the fact that some of the work is free and in public is a more charitable thing that 90 percent of the population ever is willing to do.

So there is a fine balance between art and profit?
I think that art and commerce need each other. I think some artists are very uncomfortable with having to sell their work or figure out a way to monetize it, but in the end if they want to make art for a living they have to find a way to make money from it. So the great thing about Tony and Jessica is they are great entrepreneurs but they support the arts and they are a perfect example of how a successful business can fuel good art. I recognize and appreciate that. So for the support they have given me with outdoor projects I have done, I want to help what they do with their businesses.

We have read you are friends with DJ Z-Trip and you dabble on the
decks, too?

Z-Trip is a really good friend and he is on my iPod. His Led Zepplin-Public Enemy remix of Immigrant Noise is one of my favorites that I play a lot when I DJ. He is the reason I started DJ-ing. He is an old friend and I really liked his style a lot. I opened for him a lot and we even did a little European tour together and brought in some guys to do street art. It was fun.

So would you ever come to Miami for Winter Music Conference and spin a set or two?
The funny thing about Winter Music Conference that has dictated that I haven’t come to it is I love DJ culture but I also love rock and roll so I always go to South by Southwest and they are a week apart. With how busy I am it is always difficult for me to try and come here [to Miami] and then go there [Austin, Texas]. I am just gonna have to switch it up one year and do Winter Music. I have a lot of DJ friends who always come here and say it’s great. But I like Austin, also.

Will you be back for Art Basel?
Every year for Basel I try and do a few different things. I will be DJ-ing at least one party and I will be doing a large wall in the Design District. I love coming here for Art Basel because all the locals are out in force doing their thing and there a lot of people who I like to see and there are people here from all over the world. There is just so much creative energy that runs the gamut from street art enthusiasts to fashion designers to the most high end blue chip galleries and collectors.


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