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Andre returns to College Hill

Propaganda Dept.
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  February 15, 2012

Billboard_main
DÉJÀ VU The replica billboard.

If you found yourself on Benefit Street this past Monday, you could have been forgiven for wondering if Providence's own rascal king had made a stunning return to politics: there, behind the First Baptist Church, was a large "Re-Elect Cianci" billboard.

But, on closer examination, you would have found something askew. Plastered over the former mayor's visage: the round, sturdy, inscrutable face of the late wrestler Andre the Giant.

This, you see, was a replica of one of the city's great art stunts: the 1990 defacing of a Cianci billboard that stood just on the other side of the church, at North Main and Steeple streets.

The perpetrator, of course, was a RISD student by the name of Shepard Fairey, who would ride his "Andre the Giant" meme to a career as a world famous street artist.

The re-creation, this past week, was part of RISD student Julian Marshall's senior thesis: a short film, tentatively titled Obey the Giant, on Fairey's undergraduate days.

I spoke with Marshall on the set, after watching a couple of cops tackle a stand-in for the young Fairey for the cameras. He was hush-hush about the plot and he asked that I keep the whole project "on the DL" for a couple of days.

But here's what the filmmaker did tell me: the film, made with Fairey's blessing, is a fictionalized version of the billboard stunt that launched an artist.

In an illustration class dubbed "Style and Substance," Fairey was given a fortune cookie and told to illustrate the message inside: "to affect the quality of the day is no small achievement."

The media storm that followed his billboard prank was, undoubtedly, affecting. And so, in a smaller way, was Andre's brief return to College Hill this week.

  Topics: This Just In , graffiti, STREET ART, Andre the Giant,  More more >
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