Fairey’s poster children

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This week’s Weekly includes my review of Shephard Fairey‘s exhibit at BlackFloor Gallery, and in sketches, some newsy bits. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy.

The Good Shepard

Admired for his trademark “André the Giant Has a Posse” and “Obey Giant” poster campaigns in cities around the world, Shepard Fairey is a counterculture guru whose message of peace, love and disobedience is as attractive to young people as the music of Jimi Hendrix. “He’s a rock star to the youth,” says Nick Paparone of Black Floor Gallery, which is showing new prints by the Los Angeles-based Fairey this month.
A solo show by an international art star is an ambitious push for the Black Floor collective, which took some financial risk (including insurance and shipping costs) to bring it in.

(all the images are ones I took when I visited the gallery before the show opened. I think Fairey’s bold graphics look pretty great on the black floor. Click on top image to see it bigger.)


I got an advance peek at the prints on paper and wood, and was charmed. These are works quite unlike the “Obey Giant” posters and stickers which have a Western media-influenced feel with their high-contrast graphics and sans-serif typeface. The studio works, most dated 2005, have an old-fashioned socialist realist poster elegance instead, with baroque ornamentation and rich background designs suggestive of the patterning found in paper money.


The works-all of which use a strong central image of an iconic head-evoke everything from postage stamps, playing cards and cigar-box decor to antique revolutionary posters from the ’60s and ’70s. Fairey’s poster children are counterculture heroes, from politicians and thinkers to rock stars: Lenin, Martin Luther King, Tupac, Noam Chomsky, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone, Angela Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Slick Rick, Jam Master Jay, the young Johnny Cash, LL Cool J.


Fairey’s message is one of antiwar and alternative capitalism. Resistance and respect are communicated through a worshipful treatment of the subjects, and lettered in words like “Peace,” “Power to the People” and “Make Art Not War.” It’s an old message that’s relevant to youth today.


In keeping with his street-side politics, Fairey is selling his posters at reasonable prices. Three large prints-the most ornate, beautiful and surprising-cost $2,000 each. Other works range in price, starting at an affordable $40. Most are signed and in numbered editions.



(image right is from his series of revolutionary women.)faireyrubylithramonerf

A series of 16 “Rubylith” images offer a sense of Fairey’s work method. These red acetate film cutouts are a byproduct of the screenprint process-they’re not prints themselves-and the framed, high-contrast Warholian images have no words or message.

(image is “Rubylith” showing one of the Ramones.)

Fairey, 35, runs a successful design business (Studio Number One) and the Subliminal Projects gallery in L.A.-where Space 1026 members Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Ben Woodward and Jim Houser had a show in 2004.

This is Fairey’s second solo exhibit in Philadelphia. His first (in March 1999) was at Space 1026. He’s currently in a residency program in Hawaii, but will try to make it to Philadelphia for his show, says Paparone. Let’s hope he’ll obey his instincts and come.

“Manufacturing Dissent: New Works by Shepard Fairey”
Through Nov. 26. Black Floor Gallery, 319A N. 11th St., third fl.

Exhibiting: The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting a gigantic photo, on loan from collectors, by photographer and inventor Clifford Ross. Mountain IV, (image) a 75-by-130-inch chromogenic color print, is on exhibit in the modern and contemporary galleries until December. Ross’ camera invention makes 9-by-11-inch negatives of such great clarity that the government is interested for surveillance purposes, according to a Julie Salamon article. That’s taking art photography to unheard of levels of voyeurism.

>> Collecting: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts continues to buy local with its new purchase of a large altarpiece by artist Rob Matthews. Assumption at Ridglea, from his exhibition at Gallery Joe, is a framed work of graphite on paper. Other recent PAFA purchases include works by Randall Sellers, Jim Houser, Charles Burns and the 2004 PPC portfolio.

>> Restoring: Fairmount Park Art Association announced it received a $78,200 Getty Grant to help research and restore Louise Nevelson’s Atmosphere and Environment XII, a sculpture sited outside the west entrance to the PMA. The piece was dismantled in 2002 and is scheduled to return late next year.