A recently acquired Shepard Fairey serigraph, Endless Power, consistently puts smiles on the faces of viewers who appreciate the Pop Artist’s wry sense of humor. Like most Fairey works, this print is mired in sarcasm – poking fun at the naïve nature of America’s thirst for gas and more importantly, the establishment that condones it. The artist’s signature OBEY brand sits at the front the gas pump like a welcome mat, greeting (us) drivers as thoughtless sheep while we step up to fuel up. Shepard Fairey addresses the tie in to the words, “Lung Tonic” that appear in the retro advertisement-styled print. Fairey suggests that the benefits of fossil fuels are sold to the public in similar fashion to antiquated cigarette and liquor ads that touted the health benefits of such products many years ago.
Like Warhol, Johns, Lichtenstein and other American Pop artists before him, the power of Fairey’s art lies in it’s ability to lead us to question our beliefs. Unlike some of his predecessors, Shepard Fairey shows little desire to cloak his message in subtleties. Fairey is a 21st century artist who fully understands the importance of building a brand and the OBEY brand is served up with a solid graphic consistency. In his third decade as a successful commercial artist, Fairey remains unwavering in his campaign to wake up a docile public. To say that the counterculture punk rock-inspired artist is obsessed with propaganda is an understatement. Even in the fun-loving series of record album prints he released earlier this year, Shepard can’t help but preach his message.
Available at VFA: Know Your Rights, 2014, One color serigraph, one color varnish, 42 X 42 in., Edition of 50
And Shepard Fairey can get away with in your face messaging because of his unparalleled eye for design. Historic propaganda icons layered in mandala-like symmetry lead the viewer into a brief state of trance. As our eyes peruse the work, our brains have to resolve the fact that anti-propaganda messaging − cloaked in propagandist symbols or not − is propaganda in its own right. But the truth is that Fairey is on point, and at a time when fewer artists remain committed to strong ideals, this artist is unwavering.
Shepard Fairey’s talent for manipulation is most pronounced when he introduces us to works that mimic nostalgia. The artist’s record album covers, such as Satangelic Sounds, remind viewers of simpler times. Yet, the nostalgia is coupled with an eerie feeling that the artist is playing with our feelings of sentimentality. Perhaps the Golden Years concept is simply a story sold to the American public, while evil capitalists lurked in the background amassing power and wealth.
At our Gallery, we’ve noticed a significant uptick in interest in Shepard Fairey’s work that is consistent with the artist’s rise in popularity nationwide – and his growing international reputation. We welcome you to visit with us and view new works by Fairey and other masters of Pop, Optical and Abstract Expressionism. If you’re a collector seeking works by Shepard Fairey or other Contemporary Artists, please do not hesitate to contact us.