Shepard Fairey is no stranger to highlighting resistance in his works, and he himself is a character of lore… a street artist best known placing for his ominous “OBEY” wheatpastes (featuring a simple black and white image of Andre the Giant) illegally in public spaces worldwide. He is a man and activist of the streets, and has been arrested many times over for his subversive works that have always brought attention to the underprivileged and political greed.
Always at work in the political and activist causes, Shepard has also had an impact on shaping modern day politics. He is best known for the Obama “HOPE” poster of 2008 and most recently the “We The People” posters at the Million Women Marches in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. These works tap into the pulse of reclaiming power for the people in America, and are a favorite at protests and marches (offered as free downloads for personal printing on his website here).
Opening his latest show “American Civics” on Trump’s Inauguration taps into the current political landscape with laser precision. An no other time have his anti-big money and corporate greed works been so acute to public sentiment. They speak of a generation that has lost hope in politics, and is searching for new leaders. These leaders are of course made of the people themselves, a rebel alliance of artists and social justice warriors. Fairey reminds us that power paradigms exist, but they can also be brought down and rebuilt with in a new light.
Teaming up with the estate of iconic photographer Jim Marshall, Fairey tackles the issues of voting rights, mass incarceration, and the two America’s. Featured works include portraits of Johnny Cash, Cesar Chavez, and Fannie Lee Chaney in ‘American Civics’, all individuals who have added humanity to America’s social justice issues.
Fairey also presented his classic aesthetic in works that delved into divisiveness and how these issues underscore the current tone and mood of the country. As always, Fairey’s work hits corporate greed with heavy satire while taking the idea of “The American Dream” and flipping it upside down.
The show opened on the eve of the The Million Woman March, which has thus far been the largest protest in US history. With a buzz in Los Angeles, a line wrapped around Fairey’s ‘Subliminal Projects’ gallery and down about two blocks. Fairey’s work is again inspiring change through resistance, and has probably never been more important at any other period in the artist’s career. American Civics, and the use of his posters for the Women’s March by thousands the next day shows us that Fairey may just be entering into his golden era. Fairey again finds himself leading the American resistance into uncharted territory, and his art is the torch in the darkness leading us in and through a new America.
-photos and story by Michael Cuffe for Warholian
An ‘AMERICAN CIVICS’ photo overview…