Graffiti artist Michael “the Flower Guy” De Feo subverts fashion ads
by covering the products and brands in lattices of leaves and blossoms.
He removes the poster-size ads, takes them back to his downtown New
York studio, and refashions them with lush, colorful floral bouquets.
His skillful work fools viewers into thinking it was designed that way.
Rather than fighting it, some of the fashion world—J. Crew, Christian
Louboutin, and Neiman Marcus—have embraced his alterations, recognizing the homogeneity of their ad campaigns. Spanish artist Vermibus
also takes aim at the fashion industry by painting over models’ faces
with broad textural brushstrokes or using chemicals to dissolve the ink
of the image, giving it the effect of a distorted, melting portrait. Both
techniques give the fashion image a mask-like quality and serve as a palliative to the Photoshopped homogeneity perpetuated by the industry.
Rather than altering existing ads, Barbara Kruger, a former graphic
designer for Condé Nast, borrows images from mass media and pastes
words over them to create her own advertisements that question stereo-typical notions of gender, sex, success, work, money, and lifestyle. In
Face It, she confronts the way fashion brands encourage us to spend on
clothing as a means of recapturing youth. We Don’t Need Another Hero
pictures a tilted close-up shot of a man peeling a banana, an image that
questions common attitudes of masculine heroism and suggests that the
quotidian experiences of daily life just might be enough.
In a little more than a hundred and fifty years, advertisements have
moved from the back pages of newspapers to places of prominence in
our magazines and books, radios, televisions, computers, and, most importantly, public space. The work of subvertisers is a reaction against
the commercial saturation of our environment, offering alternative messages that ask us to question the sheer number of ads that we live with.
Hogre states, “We are free to choose what to buy and what not to buy, but
we cannot think of anything other than these two options.” Subvertisers
suggest that now is the time to envision another choice.