On road signs, steps, walls, poles or electrical boxes. On t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets or caps. You will have already noticed Obey’s face in various cities around the world. Have you ever wondered what it really represents?
Symbol of a generation, of an artistic and cultural movement, of a way of life. Obey is the face of street culture, the world of skaters, urban art and thinking outside the box. Obey is a game of reverse psychology, it means just the opposite – who would ever obey the command “obey”? -: don’t obey, rebel against the system, think with your head.
The history of this symbol that has now gone viral is quite curious. Shepard Fairey, aka Obey Giant, is an American street artist. At a very young age, he invented the sticker for the first time by experimenting with the portrait of a well-known wrestler of the 1980s: Andre The Giant. He starts mass-producing them, sticking them around and distributing them. The sticker is successful, it becomes a mysterious and sought-after object. Some contribute to spreading it and in a short time the cities are filled with representations of the “giant”. Many wonder about its meaning. What will that face mean for some enigmatic, for others curious, for still others disturbing? Absolutely nothing. Or at least, not immediately. The very presence of the sticker in the public space is the real message: it represents an act of rebellion, a political stance, to question “the system”. Shepard’s hope is that the viewer, wondering about the true meaning of the sticker, applies the same critical spirit to every visual content that is submitted to him, to stop passively accepting everything he sees without asking questions, but actively reacting. This is Shepard’s manifesto, this is Obey’s manifesto.
Having become the icon of both Shepard’s boundless artistic output – which extends from large murals to artwork, prints and graphics – and his clothing brand Obey Clothing, the symbol of Obey is now known and present all over the world. Well done Shepard!