‘I have always known that art can be powerful because I have seen how it affects me personally and many other people.’
The LOTTE Museum of Art presents Shepard Fairey, an artist with a unique artistic realm that combines advertising, graphic advertising, and social messages, all based on city art. The exhibition will be an intense display marking thirty years of his artistic achievements, showcasing over 470 pieces, including everything from his early works to video, collaborations, photographic materials, new releases, and murals. Using conceptual messages in defiance of authority and convention and the repetitive use of images, Fairey is the epitome of American visual culture, bringing us persuasive propaganda-like colors and compositions while touching on social and economic subjects that include everything from the environment to human rights. Simplicity was key for his work to be visually compelling and get the public’s attention. He is igniting the minds of twenty-first-century visual art, going against art history and the existing visual culture to bring about transformation and hybridizing various genres and styles of art. This show will revisit Fairey’s philosophy-infused artistic realm as a whole, providing an invaluable opportunity to experience the beginning of a new art form that fuses art with life.
Fairey began building a career as an artist in 1989 while attending the Rhode Island School of Design with the Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker, created using the portrait of the colossal pro-wrestler André René Roussimoff (1946-1993) as a motif. The project eventually evolved into the OBEY Giant campaign and served as the foundation of his artistic productions. Later, he garnered mass popularity and international fame with the release of the portrait poster HOPE in 2008 of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama (b. 1961).
This exhibition will include not only OBEY Giant’s early series but also showcase five new murals personally painted by the artist on buildings around the city of Seoul under the theme of hope and the environment, demonstrating Fairey’s artistic world through street art. The street is the root of his work while also being the most effective and attractive location to help convey his messages, reach out to the public, and promote participation. America in the 1980s was going through a time of change, riddled with domestic and international affairs and related social issues. Younger generations began expressing their wariness of an uncertain future in the form of subcultures imbued with the spirit of resistance and defiance. Such things as the freedom-incarnate punk rock, hip hop, skateboard culture, graffiti, and street art came into style. The do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit of punk – which calls for doing things yourself to stand up to the mainstream authority class turning their backs on people – especially left a deep impression on Fairey, manifested from his early works to his recent releases in diverse themes and methods. Icons appearing in his work laden with symbolic concepts and meanings, such as pigeons, roses, lotus flowers, the Earth, and angels, serve as significant vehicles to convey the artist’s messages while completing his idiosyncratic artistic realm.
Fairey relentlessly poses a question to us, pushing us to act of our own free will. The conceptual agenda he imparts via his artwork and the gravely responsible and meaningful position we hold as members of society propels us to focus more on our reality and motivate us to unravel the entanglements of society we face. It will be exciting to see what artistic vocabulary the ever-thought-provoking Shepard Fairey will use in this exhibition to connect with the public and exact transformation. It falls on us viewers to open our hearts and answer his call, his art, to change the world.