Shepard Fairey (b. 1970)
Reagan and Friends. 2012.
Relief print with stenciled pigment and paper pulp.
Each 35 3/4 x 26 3/4 x 2 inches.
Courtesy of the Artist and Pace Editions, New York.
Richard Nixon hawks “faschions.” A suit without a face, like Magritte’s Son of Man, touts corporate violence. Ronald Reagan peddles legislative influence, and a faint ‘U’ subverts his famed television ad, “Morning in America.” The legacy of past presidents is destabilized in Shepard Fairey’s Reagan and Friends series. Reagan’s 1984 re-election ad, “Morning in America,” claimed that “under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?” But Fairey creates a visual paradox by rendering his conning subjects in monochrome, and the newspaper clippings visually evident behind Reagan’s thinning suit tell a different story, the story of a nation crippled by the policies peddled by presidential smiles.
A street art visionary, Shepard Fairey burst onto the scene in 1989 with his “André the Giant Has a Posse” sticker campaign, which later became OBEY Giant. He rose to global fame in 2008 when his much reproduced Barack Obama “Hope” poster become the iconic image of the election—and perhaps the most unabashedly optimistic political advertisement since Reagan’s “Morning in America.” Following the election, the poster was the subject of controversy after the Associated Press claimed Fairey modeled his rendering of Obama on an AP photograph. Fairey filed a fair use suit against the AP in an attempt to to have federal judge shield the poster from claims of copyright infringement. The case was settled out of court.
Caleb Bissinger ’13
Gund Gallery Associate