‘DEFIANT YOUTH’ AUCTION CELEBRATES THE BOLD, IRREVERENT ARTIST
By Lily Greenwald
Shepard Fairey – the influential street artist who emerged from the 1980s skateboarding scene – has developed an irreverent take on the modern world and its political climate, in the process becoming the visual voice of a generation.
With his 2008 screenprint of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, the Los Angeles-based artist captured attention worldwide. Titled Hope, the red, white and blue portrait is one of Fairey’s most famous and important works as it defined Obama’s youth-driven campaign, which led America to its first Black president.
This was no anomaly. Fairey continues to create works that address major issues in today’s society. His anti-war beliefs are prominent in many of his pieces, an idea particularly potent at the moment with the attacks on Ukraine.
Hope – alongside 89 other Fairey works – will be featured in Heritage Auctions’ Defiant Youth: The Work of Shepard Fairey Showcase Auction on April 12, an event dedicated solely to the world-renowned artist.
Among the featured works is Fairey’s 2018 Prevent Police Boredom, depicting an aggressive police officer and a child with a skateboard. Printed over the illustration are a skull and crossbones and red and white stripes, symbolizing the American flag. The layering of iconography in the work reflects the highly complex conversations surrounding cops in our country.
Over the years, Fairey has partnered with many people who share his dedication to highlighting injustice, and the April auction showcases several of these collaborations.
In Peaceful Protestor from 2017, the artist pays homage to Jim Marshall, the famous photographer of the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Here, Fairey re-creates an iconic Marshall photo, capturing the irony of four policemen with batons confronting a man holding a sign painted with a symbol for peace.
Another featured piece is a work made with a photo by Ted Soqui, a seasoned photojournalist known for the striking images he has captured at protests and demonstrations. For 2020’s American Rage, Fairey repurposes a Soqui photo from the 1992 L.A. riots to show the correlation between protests then and protests now.
To see more of Fairey’s politically charged and visually provoking works, visit HA.com/11186.
LILY GREENWALD is a contributor to Intelligent Collector.