18 Wooster Street
“Mayday,” an exhibition of new work by Shepard Fairey, was Deitch Projects’ final gallery show. The multiple meanings of the title resonated throughout the artist’s new body of work. Originally a celebration of spring and the rebirth it represents, May Day is also observed in many countries as International Workers’ Day or Labor Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations coordinated by unions and socialist groups. “Mayday” is also the distress signal used by pilots, police, and firefighters in times of emergency.
The exhibition included numerous portraits, in which Fairey captured the radical spirit of artists, musicians, and political activists he admires. According to Fairey, “These people were all revolutionary, in one sense or another. They started out on the margins of culture and ended up changing the mainstream. When we celebrate big steps that were made in the past, it reminds us that big steps can be made in the future.”
Fairey describes the first of May as “a day to express frustration with the powers that be, but also a day for activists to pursue ideals.” In this exhibition, he did both, with images supporting free speech and bemoaning the US two-party political system, pushing for renewable energy and critiquing corporate propaganda. In Fairey’s mind, the persistence of difficulties across all of these arenas—political, environmental, economic, cultural—points to that third meaning of a call of distress. “By now we thought we would be in post-Bush utopia, but we’re still having to call attention to these problems,” he remarked. Like any mayday call, however, the sounding of the alarm also brings hope for help on the way. “If we stay silent, there’s no hope,” Fairey mused. “But if we make noise, if we put our ideas out there, then maybe we can make a change like the people in these portraits have done.”
Accompanying the exhibition was a new mural by Fairey on the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery. Also called Mayday, this mural incorporated several of the images and themes found in his most recent fine art and street art work. The public piece tackled an array of subjects, including the reclamation of the US flag as a multi-dimensional symbol, global warming, health care, free speech, activism, and the dysfunction of America’s two-party system. It also paid tribute to some of the Pop artists who have influenced Fairey. The American flag and the target referenced the iconic paintings of Jasper Johns, who was also the subject of a portrait in the exhibition. The newspaper and megaphone advertisement paid tribute to Warhol’s early painted renditions. The mural also wove in many smaller images and decorative patterns that supplemented the aesthetic and themes of the larger images.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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