In 2006, Shepard would publish “Supply & Demand” the quintessential book on his art, a coffee table tome with huge pictures covering all aspects of the man and his manifesto, now in it’s second printing. He would go on to have a big show at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery that year in October but he was just getting started, and the next eight months would find him working on his breakthrough pieces.
In June of 2007 he would open for the first time in New York City at the Johnathan Levine Gallery, his new show featured his most groundbreaking art to date. The show was titled “E Pluribus Venom” and was every bit a critical look at nationalism, the blind ambition of capitalism, and the ease with which we still go to war. The images were stunning, the print “Proud Parents” features a couple, dressed in early sixties attire holding a new baby ( but the baby is a bomb!) and the captions U.S. Treasurey-Bringing Dreams To Life, No Cents at the bottom and also has the phrases More Milliterry, Less Skools on the left hand and right hand sides respectively, the whole image looks like an old stamp from my parents younger days. The same couple are also featured standing on shore looking across the water at the city with it’s factories belching smoke into the air, and the caption at the bottom “These Sunsets Are To Die For!” also there was a second installation in Brooklyn, in DUMBO where the largest pieces were housed. It is said that South Park’s Matt Stone purchased a sixteen foot mural and another was bought by a German collector, in fact the show was sold out! During the remainder of 2007 Shepard would have his first London exhibit in November, called Nineteeneightyphoria and focusing on the culture of surveillance and in December he would be back at Merry Karnowsky’s to finish the year in Los Angeles.
But 2008 would prove to go beyond these previous triumphs and place him in the pages of history beyond art. When he got word from the Obama campaign people that they would welcome his input he decided to create a phenomenon. He started making posters featuring a portrait of Barack Obama with the words HOPE and CHANGE and PROGRESS at the bottom, done in his classic style with cool blues and vibrant reds and black they remind me of Andy Warhol’s portrait work. Shepard would make over 80,000 posters and 150,000 stickers for the campaign, and his print “Rock the Vote” certainly did. Then after winning the election, Barrack Obama himself would send Fairey a hand written letter thanking him for all his work and saying that his art” has a profound effect on people whether in a gallery or on the back of a stop sign.” In Setember of this year he also had a solo show in San Francisco’s WhiteWalls Gallery, entitled “The Duality of Humanity” featuring work in collaboration with legendary photographer Al Rockoff, and his images of the Vietnam War.
While he looks forward to the future, Shepard who has work in numerous collections including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, New Castle, UK; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, can look back on his life and work with satisfaction. Since his beginnings in RISD to the sticker campaign, and the early struggle in skateborad shops silkscreening his original t-shirts. To being a founding member of BLK/MKT design studio in which he worked from 1997 to 2003 along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, to his Time interview in 2005, the triumph of his 2007 shows to his direct impact on the 2008 election, Shepard (who hasn’t made a dime off the Obama campaign) has done what few artists have done in the past.
What started out as an experiment in what the German Philosopher, Martin Heidegger called Phenomenology (the process of letting things manifest themselves) has evolved into a case study of a man and his art, and the world at large. I am happy to say that after starting my internet search for some hand signed art to invest in two years ago, I too have been able to make a nice collection of works by Shepard Fairey and I have stuck a few stickers up too. But most of all I have seen what art can do for an individuals sense of self, and I have learned many important lessons from Shepard that I can use in my own work. One of Shepards motto’s is “The Medium Is The Message,” but his message is and always will be-Keep your eyes and mind open…and question everything.