- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES

It isn’t in Shepard Fairey’s nature to ask for a subject’s permission before the outlaw street artist illustrates that person.

But in Barack Obama’s case, Mr. Fairey made an exception before breaking out paper, pens and computer and creating the iconic illustration of a pensive Mr. Obama staring off into space that became the talk of the 2008 presidential campaign.

“… I really wanted to help Obama. This wasn’t about me, it was about him,” Mr. Fairey says, as he sat in the second-floor conference room of his studio on the edge of downtown.

Mr. Fairey fretted that his many arrests for drawing on buildings and other private property without permission, his penchant for mocking consumerism and his portrayal of President Bush as Satan in a 2004 campaign poster might come back to haunt Mr. Obama.

Now, the Obama portrait’s stunning use of color and seemingly Warhol-inspired use of imagery has transformed one of the leaders of Los Angeles’ street art movement into a national star.

“Shepard has always been a key figure in the urban art arena, but the Obama image really catapulted him into the mainstream and really changed the way people look at his work,” said Pedro Alonzo, who is curating a Fairey retrospective that opens at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art next month.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fairey will be in Washington on Saturday to see his illustration of Mr. Obama unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery.

Then on Tuesday he will see Mr. Obama sworn in as president and attend his first inaugural ball.

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