Associated Press | 2/20/2009, 12:36 p.m.
From his humble beginnings plastering images of Andre the Giant on street signs to his lofty perch as the creator of arguably the most iconic image of President Barack Obama, Shepard Fairey (below) has made his name by pushing boundaries. (Top: “Obama HOPE,” 2008, courtesy of Obey Giant Art; Inset: “Obey Icon Pole,” 2000, courtesy of Obey Giant Art; Above: Portrait of the artist, courtesy of Obey Giant Art)
|Pieces like 2007’s “Guns and Roses Stencil” exemplify Fairey’s penchant for drawing from the visual language of dissent, protest and pop culture, borrowing from forms like propaganda posters. (Image courtesy of Chloe Gordon) ||In pieces like 2004’s “Obey Tupac Blue,” Fairey showcases his gift for making iconic images of figures who are icons themselves, transforming familiar photographs into spare, modernist distillations. (Image courtesy of Obey Giant Art) ||The 2007 mixed media mural “Two Sides of Capitalism: Good” exemplifies Fairey’s knack for subverting familiar iconography for his own purposes. In this case, he infuses the dollar bill, one of the central figures in American capitalism, with populist slogans like “Power to the People” and “Manufacturing Dissent,” alongside his trademark Obey Giant image. (Image courtesy of Jonathan LeVine Gallery) |
Shepard Fairey gained early fame from his image of wrestling legend Andre the Giant, still peeling on traffic signs, derelict buildings, utility boxes and billboards throughout the world.
In 2008, Fairey traded irony for advocacy, creating the unofficial poster that became a defining image of Barack Obama’s campaign. Appealing to mainstream and counterculture voters alike, his poster spread with viral speed, mobilizing participation in the Super Tuesday elections.
Now, a year later and just weeks after the inauguration of President Obama, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is hosting Fairey’s first museum retrospective, “Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand.”
Days before its Feb. 6 opening, Fairey was interviewed on “The Colbert Report,” “Charlie Rose,” and National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.” In Boston, Mayor Thomas M. Menino had his picture taken with Fairey before a 20-by-50 banner installed by the artist on a side of Boston City Hall. The banner is one of 17 outdoor works commissioned by the ICA to accompany the show.
As an artist who regards his Andre postings as a form of dissent as patriotic as the Boston Tea Party, Fairey might have expected an unalloyed welcome here.