Graffiti/poster artist Shepard Fairey was in Pittsburgh for the Netroots Nation last week. While he was here he also pasted up several "murals" around town to promote his October show at the Andy Warhol museum. This Saturday my buddy Rob and I decided to go around and photograph as many the murals as we could find.. We eventually documented eight of them, though I've heard there may be as many as ten floating around the city. Anyone have any clues as to where the others might be hiding?
You can see some better photos of the individual murals over in my Flickr photostream.
Fairey vs. Montano
As I was processing my photos of Fairey's murals I was suddenly reminded of local artist Daniel Montano. Montano, for those of you who aren't locals, was a talented young artist who was sentenced to hard time for tagging any wall he could find. Shepard Fairey has also been arrested several times for defacing property with his "murals." So why is one of these artists fêted by the local community and the other one denounced by editorials?
My first instinct was to attribute this to Pittsburgh provincialism — Montano is a local boy who clearly can't be any good, while Fairey has national and international acclaim — but that doesn't really hold up when you thing about it. If anything, Pittsburgh has the exact opposite problem, extolling the virtues of local artists far more than is merited. (Really, folks, no one outside of the metro area remembers Donnie Iris at all. Stop treating him like a rock god.)
My next thought was that Fairey's murals are more complex and accomplished than Montano's tags, but it's not like Montano was just scribbling out garbage — his tags were true works of street art — and some of Fairey's early work really consists of nothing more than sophomoric and crude stickers. So that theory doesn't cut it either.
At the moment the best answer I've been able to come up with is that the properties "vandalized" by Fairey are hundreds of miles away, so local property owners don't have an axe to grind. Anyone have any better ideas?