Catalyst Artist in Residence

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From The Contemporary Museum:

2005 Catalyst Artist in Residence: Shepard Fairey

The past few years have seen rapid changes in our community. Some have come with the advent and popular adoption of technologies. Others came about because of world political events or natural disasters that trigger shifts in populations or community values. In times like these, what can a museum offer to its community?

In hopes of answering this question, TCM's Education Department established the Catalyst Artist Residency program. As the only museum in the State devoted to presenting important contemporary art of a national and international caliber, we are uniquely positioned to create opportunities for our community to interact with cutting edge contemporary artists and their work. The Catalyst program fosters community dialogue around contemporary issues through participation in the artistic process. Each residency is treated as a collaborative relationship between an artist, a community agency, and the Museum.

This November, our Catalyst Artist in Residence is Shepard Fairey. Since he began his enigmatic "Obey" sticker and poster campaign in the mid 1990s, Fairey's interventionist works have made him one of the most prolific contemporary street artists and shapers of contemporary visual culture today. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, his public works can be found in nearly every corner of the world. His lush screen-prints are included in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. For his residency at The Contemporary Museum, Fairey will be working on a series of installations on the museum grounds that incorporate the natural environment, a new challenge for an artist whose works are most often associated with hyper-urban environments.

My art is designed to break through the visual clutter of the urban environment and beckon an interpretation. Advertising is the most pervasive propaganda in the United States and my work provides an alternative visual form of expression to advertising and, if only through context, brings the relationship and agenda of all visuals in the environment into question. Making people curious and provoking thought and analysis are my main goals.

Hawai'i presents a unique challenge for me because there is almost no public advertising. My usual strategy is to create bold, aggressive images that break through the visual noise by being louder themselves·. Hawai'i would require a different approach. Though Hawaii has far less advertising than most places, it is far from free of propaganda. The dominant propaganda in Hawai'i is Hawai'i itself. Because Hawai'i relies heavily on tourism, every visual cliche associated with the islands is thoroughly exploited at every turn. "Hawaiian" shirts with flowers or palm trees are worn and sold everywhere. Every store clerk greets customers with Îaloha', and girls hula dance on the beach. Surf culture is obvious everywhere in both a spiritual and crassly commercial capacity·. What I would like to do is apply my work in a logical way in Hawai'i, utilizing stylistic elements of my larger body of work fused with the dominant aesthetic cliches of Hawai'i.

Fairey's Catalyst Residency pairs him with the Parents and Children Together, PACT, youth program at Kuhio Park Terrace, where he will be working with a group of high school students to create stencil and screenprint-based works of their own. Fairey will also be working with an innovative new project made possible by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, which has bravely taken a leap of faith in the arts as a positive means for combating some elements such as vandalism that prevent the community from fully utilizing and enjoying the park. On Saturday, November 12, he will be installing a mural at the Skate Park at Makiki District Park.

Please join us for this exciting residency by coming to the Museum to see Fairey's works-in-progress in November, by taking a walk to the Skate Park at Makiki District park, or by participating in the related public programs listed below. In addition, through the generous contribution of local retailer Island Snow, and Obey Clothing, Fairey has designed a limited edition t-shirt featuring the centerpiece monkeypod tree in the Museum's gardens. This shirt will be available exclusively at the TCM Shop and at Island Snow Ala Moana.

The Catalyst Artist in Residence program fosters community dialogue around contemporary issues through participation in the artistic process. Each residency is treated as a collaborative relationship between an artist, a community agency, and the Museum.

The Catalyst Artist in Residence program is generously supported by the Maren Foundation and the LEF Community Futures Collaborative. Thanks to James Kodama of Island Snow, Lester Ching, Roz Young and the Makiki District Park Staff of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, the PACT staff at Kuhio Park Terrace, and Obey Clothing for additional support of Shepard Fairey's residency.

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