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.”
Shepard Fairey was born in Charleston, S.C. and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. As a student there he created the “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker that transformed into the OBEY GIANT art campaign, which featured imagery that has changed the way people see art and the urban landscape. His work has evolved into an acclaimed body of art, which includes the 2008 "Hope" portrait of Barack Obama, found at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Fairey’s 25-plus-year career started in 1989 with his sticker campaign. In addition to his guerrilla street art presence, the artist has executed more than 75 large-scale painted public murals around the world as of spring 2017. His works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and many others.
In 2015 Fairey worked with Galerie Itinerrance in Paris to install his Earth Crisis Globe at the Eiffel Tower in time for the COP21 Climate Conference. The installation was created as a call to action to protect the planet and was unveiled just days following the Paris Attacks on November 13, 2015. Later in 2016, Fairey opened “Earth Crisis,” a solo exhibition with Galerie Itinerrance showcasing a body of environmentally-themed works.
The artist completed a career survey museum show in Hong Kong in 2016 at the Hong Kong Contemporary Art (HOCA) Foundation entitled “Visual Disobedience” and in 2017 he exhibited his “Peace & Justice” show and mural in Seoul, Korea at the Hangaram Art Museum at Seoul Arts Center.
Collaborating with the Amplifier Foundation, Fairey helped launch the “We The People” campaign in January 2017, a project dedicated to igniting a national dialogue about American identity and values through public art and story sharing. His portraits celebrate diversity and inclusion and have become a visual centerpiece for marches, protests, and global discourse.
Fairey has been awarded the Art Wynwood Tony Goldman Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award and Visionary Award, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Voices of Courage Media Award, is a Rush Arts honoree, the first-ever P.S. ARTS heART Award, an honorary doctorate from Pratt Institute, and more.
For more information, visit www.OBEYGIANT.com.