MAYDAY: The Art of Shepard Fairey

MAYDAY: The Art of Shepard Fairey

Images and book description are from Gingko Press:

The final exhibition before the closing of New York’s seminal Deitch Projects, MAYDAY is simultaneously a call for heightened awareness and a celebration of the rebirth embodied in revolutionary movements.

MAYDAY: The Art of Shepard Fairey is published as a celebration of an evocative collection of paintings from one of the most important artists of our time. Portraits of advocates of the working class and oppressed define the collection. Fairey stakes the claim that artists, musicians and writers such as Joe Strummer, Jean Michel Basquiat and Cornel West all have parts to play in stimulating response to injustice.

With energy and urgency befitting the title MAYDAY, Fairey captures the radical spirit of his subjects, using portraiture to celebrate the artists, musicians and political activists he most admires. Says Fairey, “These people I’m portraying were all revolutionary, in one sense or another. They started out on the margins of culture and ended up changing the mainstream. When we celebrate big steps that were made in the past, it reminds us that big steps can be made in the future.”

In Fairey’s mind, the persistence of difficulties in the political, environmental, economic, and cultural arenas points to the definition of Mayday as a distress signal: “By now we thought we would be in post-Bush utopia, but we’re still having to call attention to these problems.” Like any mayday call, however, the sounding of the alarm also brings hope for help on the way. “If we stay silent, there’s no hope,” Fairey muses. “But if we make noise, if we put our ideas out there, then maybe we can make a change like the people in the portraits have done.”

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2 Comments

While I like his visual

While I like his visual style, I don't find his work has a whole lot of point to it beyond simple asthetics, yet the work is often touted as being meaningful. There is also the fact that he has been known to appropriate other artists work but not credit it, yet be aggressive (certainly legally) towards those who do the same with his work.

Mark Vallen has an interesting article: https://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm showing the propaganda art he has copied from and I find it very revealing that once you take away what he's copied, you aren't left with much original art at all. Also, it seems that any impact and power the original propaganda art had has been lost when reused by Fairey.

I certainly can't fault his business sense, and he's made himself very wealthy from his art. However using some of that wealth to donate to revolutionary causes could come across as trying to buy credibility.

However, he's got a lot of fans, and his work is widely exhibited and in some very classy places, so he must be doing something right!

To the first poster: I

To the first poster: I enjoyed the article you posted. Didn't realize Fairey plagiarized that much. However the repurposing of previous art is so common nowadays, especially in the silkscreen medium, can you really say Fairey is infringing copyright? He does modify the source material in some cases (transforming a photo into a three or two color image). Admittedly his biggest fault is not giving credit where it's due.

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