Shepard Fairey (1970, South Carolina), is the artist behind OBEY GIANT, whose name derives from the sticker campaign that started in 1989 when the artist was still only a university student.
Shepard Fairey’s cultural universe and the origin of OBEY
Since then his path has continued, steeped in hip hop and punk rock culture. The universe of skateboarders and punksrejects the impulse to comply with any convention. Shepard Fairey, building his frame of reference on this philosophy, conveys its values through his artistic messages intended to provoke a critical response in the spectator. The “OBEY GIANT” campaign, with the portrait of the French wrestler André the Giant, has no real meaning and deliberately leaves room for interpretation. Fairey thus invites the public to reflect on the meaning of freedom and at the same time to realize its lack within the rigid system of contemporary society.
Shepard Fairey’s style
By developing the design of stickers, posters and matrices, Shepard chooses to use a minimalist color palette, an emblematic pictorial system, an expressive, immediate and effective screenplay. The artistic language he prefers serves to create a laconic image understandable to all. If the references to pop art are visible in the composition of the image, they actually create a disruption with the topics treated, as Shepard is used to addressing socio-political issues, humanitarian values that channel the viewer towards taking a civic position. An example is found in the “HOPE” image linked to the iconic portrait of Barack Obama, who has become a symbol of the presidential campaign.
30 years of career
In 2019 Fairey’s career reached 30 years and the artist continues his original mission to create an artistic universe accessible to everyone and that invites the viewer to ask questions. Shepard Fairey’s art, as he says himself, is a reaction to circumstances of force majeure, an effort to fight an urgent situation thanks to provocative art. His works related to war, peace or the environment are imbued with propaganda and provide the viewer with multipurpose interpretations.
Most important exhibitions
In 2009 Shepard was invited to make only one show entitled “Supply & Demand” at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, which was later re-proposed also at Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), Ohio, making a record of visits to all three museums.
In 2011 Shepard also participated in the “Art in the Streets” exhibition at MOCA Geffen in Los Angeles and in 2014 she exhibited in Charleston S.C., her hometown, with an important exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.
In 2015, on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, Fairey was chosen to be the first artist ever to install a three-dimensional work on the Eiffel Tower: “Earth Crisis Globe”. The same year, the HOCA foundation in Hong Kong presented a retrospective on his career entitled “Visual Disobedience“.
In 2018 the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in Moscow dedicated a large solo exhibition to Shepard Fairey, with almost four hundred works on display. The exhibition, titled “Force Majeure“, was Fairey’s first solo exhibition in Russia, and for this reason it was particularly important and evocative for the artist’s career.
In 2019 Fairey’s career reached 30 years and for the occasion the artist created a traveling exhibition worldwide: “Facing the Giant: Three decades of dissent ”, A reflection on his career aimed at highlighting both the continuity and the evolution of his art and the concepts expressed with it. Also in the same year he participated in a collective exhibition “Post Contemporary Urban Graphics” at the MoCa in Shanghai.
During his artistic career, the artist has made more than 100 masonry works in Europe and in many other states around the world, including Canada, the United States, Russia, South Africa, Hong Kong. His works are present in the collections of some of the main museums in the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in San Francisco, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.