Propagandist, arch manipulator, inciter, provocateur, these are all words used to describe the artist Shepard Fairey, the man many hail as the originator of the modern urban art scene and an undeniable phenomenon.
It began with an absurd sticker illustration of the wrestler André The Giant, which then evolved into an exploration of control, questioning control, and questioning the giant monolithic forces that we are all subjected to, confronting these giant issues with his work, revealing the duality to the name. The title ‘Facing the Giant’ references the giant of Fairey’s prolifically disseminated Obey Giant art campaign, but more enduringly, the giant issues and forces he confronts through his art.
Coming from a punk rock, skateboarding, and rebellious subcultures, he started off doing work in the street without permission. It was in 2008 that Shepard Fairey became a worldwide household name when he created, the renowned Obama Hope poster in red and blue colours. Since then, Fairey’s work has continued to reach the masses, inspiring the public on a global scale. Fairey’s mega sphere installation under the Eiffel Tower, entitled ‘Earth Crisis’, brought attention to the climate and sustainability debate. His work continues to address current topics of discussion across his worldwide solo exhibitions and museum shows, from Los Angeles to Paris, London, Seoul, New York, Munich and many more.
His work, a mixture of parody and protest, serves to subvert the very medium to which it attaches itself. Plastered posters adorn advertising billboards that in his own words ‘market nothingness’ while large scale posters with the simple one word message ‘obey’ stir the bewildered masses. Dissent is at the root of what he does, and it continues to be an important part of his work, pushing back against dominant systems that allow and perpetuate injustice requires dissent.