Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shepard Fairey + Manny Garcia + Terry Gross

An interesting interview today on Fresh Air with Shepard Fairey and Mannie Garcia regarding the now famous Obama portrait. It raises all kinds of interesting and complicated questions about the ever popular “appropriation” of source material for art and the appropriate attribution and compensation.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if an artist took source material and significantly changed it, such as Rauchenberg’s use of news photographs in his paintings, or Robert Hienecken’s use of advertising in his work, well it seemed fair enough to me. Where I call bullshit is with artists such as Richard Prince or Thomas Ruth who simply reproduce someone else’s art work and I’ve yet to hear an argument compelling enough to change my mind.

This case is a more difficult call for me and I have a leg on both sides of the fence, but leaning to Garcia. Fairey’s point of view is that he significantly changed the image and it’s purpose from a news reportage image to a political statement. But I agree with Garcia, that the image was his and he should have had the right to decide whether to allow it’s use. To bad Fairey couldn’t have done some legwork and tracked down Garcia prior to all this. Then again, Garcia may have denied him the rights and we would have never seen that iconic image. Tough call.

This isn't Fairey's first time being criticized for appropriating artwork and his defense claiming he uses proceeds to promote social causes rings a bit hollow because it also promotes Fairey in the process.

The sadder part of the interview came when Garcia was discussing his own dispute with AP regarding whether he as a free-lancer with no signed contract, was in fact “employed” by the AP. AP is claiming all his images were works made for hire and therefore the property of the AP. But if he was a free-lancer, not an employee, meaning not on salary with full benefits, etc. and had not signed a contract granting such rights, then all works should remain Garcia’s property. I hope he wins that one.

1 comment:

Todd Guess said...

I've kept an ear turned towards this story and I'll admit, I've been firmly on Fairey's side, but I find your viewpoints interesting since you've got a dog in this fight, so to speak. Howdy, by the way. Hope to see you some time, what's it been, 15 years? -Cheers