The Jersey City Wave
Artist Name: Shepard Fairey
Location: 121 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07302
Elevated above Grove St. Plaza is the “Jersey City Wave” mural, created by artist Shepard Fairey. The mural, which was completed in October of 2015 sits atop 121 Newark Avenue. The project is one of the beacon’s of the Jersey City Mural Project, which has since grown to include dozens of other murals in all areas of the city. Artist Fairey stated in an interview with NJ.com that, “the mural is designed to symbolize the renaissance and the cultural wave that Jersey City is riding while also acknowledging its waterfront location and the beauty and power of Mother Nature.” The “Jersey City Wave” is not the first mural Fairey has worked on in Jersey City, as earlier that year he completed “Natural Springs ,” a 47ft high and 147ft long mural, in 581 Monmouth St.
The artist’s first major well known project was one that featured legendary pro wrestler Andre the Giant. The image, which included the phrase “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” and later simply changed to “Obey” was created as a campaign to experiment with phenomenology. Fairey states on his website , “The OBEY sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings. Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the product or motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with the sticker provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail.”
The Obey phrase later became its own branding. In terms of its meaning, the Obey website states, “Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities.” However, others believe the word is a reverse psychology term in that to many the clothing represents the anti-establishment, anti-corporate mentality.
Another major project that further pushed his work to mainstream society was the popular “Hope” image, which featured then Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The image featured a picture of Obama, who at that time was running for president with the word hope underneath. Other versions of the image featured the words vote and change as well, all three in support of Obama’s presidential campaign. The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl declared that “Fairey created the most efficacious American political illustration since Uncle Sam Wants You.” Most agree with this statement, as the Obama merchandise produced about $400,000, all of which was donated to Obama’s campaign. Fairey essentially created a social activism campaign through his work, helping inspire many American’s, especially first time voters. His social activism continued on in his other work around the world including a mural of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 25th anniversary of the anti-apartheid Purple Rain protest and a poster featuring actress Olivia Wilde dressed as the Statue of Liberty, in support of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the work they do.