The L.A.-based artist’s Studio Number One (studionumberone.com) recently dropped something new: a fresh brand identity for the city of Los Angeles created in collaboration with House Industries (houseindustries.com). Here, Fairey reminisces about the city he loves, his proudest moments and what’s next.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JON FURLONG. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST (OBEYGIANT.COM)
When did you first arrive in L.A.? I visited L.A. a few times back in the late ’80s. I was an avid skateboarder, so my parents took me, on my insistence, to Venice Beach where many pros street skated. I moved to San Diego in 1996 and began to drive to L.A. regularly for street art and graphic design projects immediately after relocating to the West Coast. But I did not move to L.A. permanently until 2001.
How have you seen the city change over the years? My first art studio in L.A. was at Sixth and Alameda near what is now called the Arts District, but at the time, it was mostly an industrial wasteland with low rent, a lot of sketchy folks, and a few art and music types. That area and others have evolved in ways that are good and bad in terms of affordability. But there has been a dramatic increase in opportunities for people in the arts. There were only a handful of galleries addressing counterculture art rather than traditional fine art when I first moved to L.A., and now there are dozens if not hundreds.
How did you come up with the new identity and logo for the city of Los Angeles? To me, L.A. is so rich and diverse it is tough to distill down to one logo or feeling. Still, the hope was to encapsulate some things that represent some of the essential characteristics of L.A., such as aspiration, diversity, optimism and possibility. We all agreed that scripts not only referenced L.A.’s history with handpainted signage and surf and skate culture—as well as other hotel and restaurant landmarks—but also embodied the idea that L.A. is a place of creative possibility where one can create or write their own future.
What’s been your proudest moment as an artist? Probably the response to my We the People posters that were first seen at the women’s marches around the globe after Donald Trump was elected. I’m proud of those because, unlike the Obama “Hope” portrait, they celebrate people who are often marginalized or ignored rather than people who are already famous. They were embraced as symbols of equality and inclusion to a degree I never could’ve imagined, and I’m proud I could create something that resonated as symbolically in a moment when our country desperately needed that (and still does).
What can readers expect from you next? There are always murals and art projects planned, so stay tuned. I try to give people info on my social media.