Still from 'Portlandia' sketch

Still from ‘Portlandia’ sketch (all screenshots by the author)

“You wanna be radical? This is the radical store for you,” says Phil (Fred Armisen) of Shocking Art Supplies in a skit from a new episode of Portlandia that features a guest appearance by street artist and branding guru Shepard Fairey.

In the clip, Armisen and series co-creator Carrie Brownstein reprise their roles as the aggressive art entrepreneurs behind Bad Art Good Walls. But this time, instead of outfitting new coffee shops with schlocky art, they’re peddling materials for stereotypically “edgy” projects to art students, including “pre-smashed TVs,” “baby doll parts,” “mannequins and stencils,” “American flags — upside-down flags,” and more. Fairey is shown restocking shelves, smashing a TV, stenciling a mannequin, and demonstrating a “radical juxtaposition” of doll parts. He gets points for taking part in a segment that’s essentially ridiculing a type of quasi-subversive art he helped popularize — although seeing him contributing OBEY prints to a Bad Art Good Walls segment would be even sharper.

YouTube video

“The part I play, a jaded store employee, was set in the exact art store where I bought my art supplies while staying in Portland for a stint a few summers ago,” Fairey wrote on Instagram. “I’m no actor, but this part, along with maybe ‘jaded art student’ or ‘jaded skate shope employee,’ are the closest I’ll ever get to method acting.”

In the hopes that the “Shocking Art Supplies” skit gets reprised in a future episode, here are a few other products inspired by tired-student-art-project tropes we’d like to see lampooned: buckets of human blood for the inevitable self-slicing performance art piece; pre-made replicas of everyday objects fabricated from other materials (ceramic wooden spoons, bronze bananas, cameras made of wood, resin snowmen); and customizable “rewards” (cheap prints, postcards, etc.) for supporters of the inevitable Kickstarter campaign.

The episode of Portlandia featuring Fairey premieres on January 29.

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Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

7 replies on “Shepard Fairey Hawks “Radical Art Supplies” on ‘Portlandia’”

    1. You’re missing the joke. They’re making the comment that the so-called “shocking” is so cliche that it might as well be sold at a chain craft stores.

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