Shepard Fairey: What a Relief!
Shepard Fairey’s Pace Prints show, titled “Harmony and Discord,” conveys the agit-prop message for which the Obama Hope artist is well-known: one series, Reagan and Friends, depicts the former president, along with Richard Nixon and other corporate types, as corrupt salesmen. Others riff on global warming, the dove of peace, and a grenade that could pave the way for a revolution.
But this political commentary is delivered in particularly seductive and tactile images that show the artist exploring technique as well as the powerful influence of artists he admires. Targets and comic-book text bubbles riff on Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Rugged, handmade paper is the ground for some of the editions, made with a mix of stenciling, spray paint, embossing, and relief printing. And, for the first time (in an inspiration he credits to Barbara Kruger), Fairey experimented with the magnesium printing plate itself as a ground, reveling in its relief surface as he layered color on top. (He had special plates made so the pictures wouldn’t be flopped.)
At the opening, the artist also revealed his next project: paintings inspired by every song on Americana, the new album by Neil Young and Crazy Horse covering classics like “Oh Susannah,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “Clementine.” The works, to be exhibited at a private, one-day event to celebrate the album’s release at Perry Rubenstein’s new Hollywood gallery next month, were the result of an elaborate back-and-forth process between artist and musician. “It was a genuine collaboration,” says Fairey, who describes the resulting images as “heroic but with a dark twist.
Detail of “Rise Above Rebel (Plate),” 2012, hand-rubbed, rolled, and transferred ink on photo-etched magnesium plate. 32 x 24”; edition of five. Courtesy the artist and Pace Prints, New York.