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May Day

Shepard Fairey's continuing crusade closes out a street art institution

by Josh Rubin in Culture on 27 April 2010

obey-new1.jpg

With new murals in downtown Manhattan and the Bronx, a pop-up store in the works, a project with City Kids, and new limited edition prints, the events surrounding Shepard Fairey's upcoming solo show "May Day" almost amount to more of a city-wide residency. But the internationally-acclaimed artist, whose last major exhibit was a touring museum retrospective and whose Obama poster was one of the most iconic images of the historic campaign, big is nothing new. While Fairey's fame naturally invites criticism, the show (opening 1 May 2010 at Deitch, and closing the NYC institution) is a reminder of exactly what makes the prolific artist such an important generational voice.

Filled with portraits of cultural and political heroes and images addressing various social issues—all depicted in Fairey's propaganda-poster-meets-street-art style—his work's strength lies in its direct Warholian style and unapologetic messages. From his original Obey stickers to his ongoing commitment to human rights, environmentalism, and other pressing issues of our time, Fairey's art practice has always been about the power of words and images to effect change.

As Antonino D'Ambrosio writes in his essay for the book that will accompany the show, the image of Clash guitarist and lead singer Joe Strummer (a CH exclusive and the first produced for this series) represents a figure like Fairey himself, who D'Ambrosio calls, "a creative-activist who is always FOR and never against. He is about PRODUCING not reducing. He wishes to go FORWARD not fall backward."

May Day runs through 29 May 2010.

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