Analysis Of The Work Of Shepard Fairey And Its Socio Political Functions

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Shepard Fairey is an American graphic arttist, muralist, and social activist. He is one of thte most famous figures of the street tart moving, almongst other artistst like Banksy, and is recognized as one of the most influential street artists of our time. Fairey’s work, which combines elements of graffiti, pop art, business art, appropriation art, and Marxist theory, has long been divisive (Pop), and he is known to blur boundaries between traditional and commercial art through the means of medium and image, illuminating his brand of social critique through prints, murals, stickers, and posters in public spaces. As Shepard Fairey himself said, “there’s something powerful about seeing art in public spaces that has a 7 function other than just advertising that’s selling a product”.

Born in 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States, from a young age on he had a passion for skateboarding and art. The skateboarding culture exposed him to a lot of street artists and this may have been a great influence for his later involvement in the art movement. While He was studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989, he created his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” street art, which is to this day one of his most famous works. Other art that he is extraordinarily well known for is his Hope (2008) campaign art, which portrays in red, white, and blue, a portrait of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California in tthe United States.

Fairey has been outspoken about his desire for his art to impact people and society, and, as he puts it, “encourage someone to think about an issue in a way they may not have” previously. One way he achieves this is by finding or producing evocative imagery and symbols that can translate complex ideas in relatable ways. With this in mind, the artistic intention behind a lot of his rather minimalistic, thought-provoking art is immediately justified and shown to have complex and deep layers of meaning. The fire behind his more provocative, obviously political work, such as the ‘Hope’ poster, is that Fairey feels that it is “important to use art as a tool of persuasion responsibly”, because if “art can crystallize a complex idea in a relatable way, it can create important conversations”. From his standpoint, sometimes there may be no more effective means of impacting things and people, socially, politically and conceptually, than art that may initially appear more shallow than it truly is.

Nation-states, political campaigns and corporations all use graphic design to project authority. But the same symbols can be subverted by opponents to mock or attack the establishment. More than ever, political iconography has become a battleground. Symbols of nationhood, from flags to banknotes, are essential to building identity and legitimizing power.

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