PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas October 2022

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FAIREY Fares Well in Texas Los Angeles artist and activist Shepard Fairey returns to Dallas with a new agenda: to remind us of our past and direct our gaze to a considered future. I t wouldn't be a Shepard Fairey if it didn't disrupt your reality and leave you questioning everything. Since emerging on the scene more than 30 years ago — with his 1989 "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign — Fairey has continuously found himself at the pulse of American culture. While he's shifted from delinquent street tagger to championed artist and storyteller, the same touchy subjects ignite his work: political corruption, human rights, and environmental turmoil, to name a few. His current exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary, "Shepard Fairey: Backward Forward" (through July 21, 2023), forces visitors to face head-on the weight of their choices and ask themselves: Are we moving forward or backward? On exhibit are his 2017 mixed media on canvas Defend Dignity, which presents a heroic image of Maribel Valdez Gonzalez, a Texas teacher of Mexican descent, alongside anti-immigration propaganda, and his less accusatory 2021 AR-15 Lily, inspired by the Vietnam War protesters who put flowers in the gun barrels of the National Guard. While taking us through the trajectory of his career, the exhibition also explores the trajectory of America, giving Fairey's present concerns about our country's direction a greater sense of urgency. "Backward Forward" pulls us out of our one-track trance and invites us to think about how we can evolve into a society that cares about the greater good. Ahead of his first solo exhibition in Texas, PaperCity dialogues with Fairey. Tell us about the title, Backward Forward. SF: I've always considered myself progressive. In many ways, I'd consider the United States progressive, as a country founded on democracy and continuously evolved to improve equality, even if sometimes against resistance. Since the time of Reagan, but especially since the rise of Trump, there seems to be a nostalgia looking back to a supposedly better time that, in my opinion, was not better, especially for anyone who is not a wealthy straight white male. A lot of the current social and political trends I see as regressive, not progressive — hence, "Backward Forward." The title is meant to be evocative, but it is also very literal in the sense that these ideas that I think are outdated are being pushed as the way forward by social movements that used to be fringe but have entered the mainstream. I hope the show title makes people think about how they define progress. The works in the e x h i b i t i o n w e r e created at different times in your life —2017, 2020, and this year. What is the unifying thread? SF: The country's been facing many of the same challenges f o r d e c a d e s , b u t e s p e c i a l l y s i n c e the rise of Trump m y c o n s i s t e n t c o n c e r n s h a v e been exacerbated. Tribalism, including racism, sexism, xeno- phobia, Islamaphobia, environmental irre- sponsibility, denial of fact and science, s u p p r e s s i o n o f democracy, abuse of power, and gun violence have all intensified during the time frame of the works in this show. I respond to what's going on in the news cycle more as a connection to pervasive systemic issues rather than purely trying to take part in a short-term conversation. Your art is often driven by political and social issues. W h a t r e c e n t n e w s h a s impacted you? SF: The pervasive voter-suppression laws being pushed in different states around the nation, the extreme weather events fueled by climate change, the many mass shootings, and the election campaigns of candidates who push the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. How your approach to art has changed in recent years. SF: The most dramatic change in my art philosophically is that I've shifted from making predominantly confrontational or agitational pieces to making more appealing and universal images that draw people into a challenging conversation without being as accusatory or divisive. My social perspective is the same, but my strategy has evolved. I've expanded my color palette to include shades of blue rather than just the more aggressive red, black, gold, and cream. My creative process varies from image to image. Sometimes I'm inspired by a song lyric, and sometimes I see something By Dani Grande (Continued on page 76) Shepard Fairey's Ideal Power Mural Study, Version 2, 2021 32

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