Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shepard Fairey's New Yorker Review

Peter Schjeldahl reviews Shepard Fairy's show at ICA Boston in this week's New Yorker. I'm pretty tired of Shepard Fairy at this point and I wasn't a huge fan of his work to begin with. I'm particularly annoyed by his pseudo revolutionary political pretensions. I think Schjedahl accurately identifies some of the problems with this aspect of his work in the following two excerpts from the review:
Fairey has said that the real message behind his work is “Question everything.” I question the I.C.A. director Jill Medvedow’s claim, in the show’s catalogue, that Fairey pursues a “quest to challenge the status quo and disrupt our sense of complacency through his art.” What isn’t status quo about political rage? And have you met anyone not heavily medicated who strikes you as complacent lately? The retrospective is dated on arrival.


Fairey’s stylistic borrowings from Russian Revolutionary, Soviet, and W.P.A. propaganda are often remarked upon, but borrowedness itself—studied anachronism—is his mode of seduction. His style’s old-timey charm, however, is not inexhaustible. That leaves the inherent attraction of his subjects and of his selection of ready-made images to represent them. These include, besides mainstream heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Muhammad Ali, Che, Fidel, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, generic freedom fighters, and “revolutionary women.” Punks abound: Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop. Let George W. Bush pictured as a vampire exemplify the calibre of Fairey’s many satirical japes.

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