I was first exposed to the work of Shepard Fairey in 1991, when he was still a student at RISD and I was in NYC looking at Parsons School of Design as a high school senior. My best friend Cort Winsett had accompanied me for a long weekend of exploring the city and broadening horizons. Included on the tour was a prerequisite mugging in Times Square, a chess match with a crazy homeless guy in Washington Square Park, and something else that stuck in my mind as equally exciting - street art.
One of Cort's friends had graduated the year before and left Memphis to study fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design. He took the train down to meet us for a night, and we wandered the streets together. At every crosswalk, bus kiosk, and reachable street sign that we passed, John - the then freshman at RISD - would pause to place a vinyl sticker of André the Giant. Like countless others that would follow, John was a part of a posse, virally spreading the André meme and Shepard Fairey worldwide.
Both the face of André and the perception of Fairey have evolved in the years since, but his work has remained tied to its guerilla roots. In 2004, Fairey created "Mr. Spray" as an ironic 1950's advertising icon, promoting street art while spoofing brand concepts. The character, which holds a stencil of the current iteration of André, has become immensely popular, showing up on wheatpaste posters in nearly every major city. And now, Mr. Spray comes to life as a toy, produced by San Francisco-based toymaker STRANGEco.
I'm completely floored by the response to my recently released book. Art-Toys is just now starting to show up on retailers shelves, but it's already spent a week on Amazon's bestseller list, moving up and down the chart.
I simply cannot thank and acknowledge the artists behind the toys enough. However, extra gratitude goes to those who came out last month to sign the special edition of the book. It's amazing to have had so much support from friends and peers, including Attaboy, Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Hugh Brown, Luke Chueh, Lili Chin, Bob Dob, Sam Flores, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, Patrick Ma, Mario "MARS-1" Martinez, Mark Nagata, Craig Perkins, Mark Ryden, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Scott Tolleson, Michelle Valigura, Amanda Visell, and Yoskay Yamamoto. I'm beyond excited about the resulting special edition with their signatures and the alternate cover/slipcase. Word from my publisher Baby Tattoo is that it's nearly sold out!
The book launch event that was originally planned for Friday, August 13th, has been moved due to scheduling conflicts. It will now be Thursday, September 9th at La Luz de Jesus Gallery / Wacko in Los Feliz. More details will be released soon, including information on a special guest that will be performing.
Hope to see you there!
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