On Friday, Feb. 6, Shepard Fairey's exhibit Supply and Demand opened at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) with images commenting on the War in Iraq, idolizing pop culture icons of the political and musical persuasion and the unforgettable Obama "Hope" poster that made it to the cover of Time magazine.
And though there is currently dispute on the copyrights of the photo, I think Fairey hit the mark with the "Obama Hope" poster. It was hanging in the office of the music magazine I interned at in Dublin and helped me feel closer to the election even though I was 3,000 miles from Boston on election night. The colors invoke patriotism. The distant look in Obama’s eyes almost says, “I know it seems far away, but better days are ahead, America. Vote for me and you won’t need to worry.” And Obama himself was proud of the artwork as well. He wrote a letter, which is on display at the exhibit, to Fairey expressing his thanks in which he said, “I am privileged to be a part of your art work and proud to have your support."
I think I like Fairey's work mostly because it is heavily rooted in graphic design and relates to those propaganda images and psychedelic art with heavy lines that I've come across many times in history class or in other museums. The images of people are defined, but not so defined that they look life-like. I think there's just the right amount of distance so people don't get too overwhelmed with how graphic the characters look.
Quite honestly, though his message, media and style maybe complex, the execution is simple and clean. And though there may be less to interpret than a Jackson Pollack painting, I don't mind. I'm not crazy about art that makes me feel dumb if I "don't get it." Sorry, but I've never been able to appreciate abstract art.
Fairey's artwork is direct. He has the right combination of images, media and color that doesn't mask anything with the viewer. It's pretty obvious what he's trying to say in his compositions, whether it's an anti-war message or an homage to a famous musician with a striking and basic color scheme. It's simple, yet poignant. But if someone stops and says "I totally get what this guy is saying," then I think the undefined, omnipresent "mission" of art was accomplished.
Fairey's photo: Flickr.com
Jackson Pollack painting: Flickr.com