Now a household name for his iconic take on the presidential visage, Shepard Fairey is uniquely suited for a career retrospective. And not just because of his Obama-fueled stardom. This year marks the 20th since the street artist/graphic designer/general renaissance man began printing his infamous “Andre the Giant has a Posse” stickers while a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. To mark the milestone, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art is presenting “Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand,” Fairey’s first ever museum survey, which traces his oeuvre from 1989 through works he completed just weeks ago. The location is no accident either. Fairey admits a close connection to the town, as it was the first “real city” where he came to display his omnipresent street works.
Unlike many retrospectives, “Supply and Demand” is not organized chronologically. Since he regularly revisits certain concepts throughout the years, his work is separated into seven different thematic sections. The “Propaganda” portion, for instance, focuses on Fairey’s “Obey” theme, and includes plenty of works with Andre the Giant’s goofy mug. The “Music” section includes images of his biggest musical inspirations. In that room, portraits of Joe Strummer and Sid Vicious hang next to Tupac and Chuck D. But if there’s one underlying theme in the show, it’s exemplified by the last category, “Question Everything,” which subverts everything from Middle Eastern imagery to American currency. Running from this Friday through 16 August, the show is exclusively sponsored Levi’s, which couldn’t be more appropriate: the famed jeans company has championed Fairey since 2002, when they sponsored one of his group shows in Los Angeles.
We were lucky enough to get a preview of the exhibition, given by none other than the artist himself, who was dressed more GQ than DIY. He discussed myriad subjects, from the concept of street art to his creative process and post-Obama expectations. But since he explains it better than we can, we offer a particularly rough Rough Cut Video. Enjoy.