Politically charged paintings line the walls of the Jacob Lewis Gallery. In a restrained palette of red, yellow and black, the work–part of Shepard Fairey’s first solo exhibit in NYC since 2010–attempts to speak volumes on the topics of political corruption, women’s roles in society, and the planet’s obsession with oil.
Shepard Fairey first gained notoriety with his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” street campaign while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. He was originally inspired by the conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, whose black and white photographs were overlaid with a stark white-on-red type design. Over the last 20 years, his own work has mixed Russian Constructivism and Chinese Communist propaganda with American advertising. Deceivingly reductive, Fairey’s imagery has revolutionized street art around the world and helped elevate street artists into the fine art category.
In his current exhibit, On Our Hands, Fairey returns to addressing issues of corruption and abuse of power by confronting the viewer through his illustrations. His images depict everything from the evils of capitalism to oil addiction. On Our Hands still has the woodcut feel for which he is known, but the pieces are not as flat as they often appear in reproductions. Depth has been built into each image with a handful of techniques, like overlaying intricate flowered patterns and dripping brush strokes.
The work presented in On Our Hands is a step towards work that is more aesthetically pleasing than it is street. Though the time and skill Fairey has invested is evident, the subject matter seems contrived and depicts ideals that are not challenging anyone–or any corporation–directly. Fairey fans are sure to find imagery that is the artist’s stock-in-trade, but ideas that once seemed deeper now float at the shallow end of the pool.
Shepard Fairey: On Our Hands
September 18 – October 24, 2015
Jacob Lewis Gallery: 521 West 26th Street, 4th Floor New York, NY 10001