Shepard Fairey understands the power of symbols to convey deeper messages about politics, culture, and society. In 1989, the illustration major created his iconic “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker, which later evolved into “OBEY GIANT”—a now ubiquitous symbol that’s replicated and reproduced by a growing network of international artist collaborators.
This month, Shepard returns to his symbolic roots with a new series of hand-embellished mono-engravings, screen prints, and hand-painted multiples. The work will appear in ICONS, a solo exhibition that runs through Dec. 30. 2023, at Shepard’s L.A. gallery and project space, Subliminal Projects. The new work centers on Shepard’s career-long investigation into iconography, symbology, and phenomenology.
“Icons have the power to shape culture when they become widely recognized and resonant reference points that are easily understood shorthand for a concept,” he says. “This exhibition is filled with images, symbols, emblems, and portraits that I classify as iconic and make up a portion of the iconography I’ve created throughout my career.”
Shepard’s fascination with symbols stems from his teenage interest in skateboarding, punk rock, and branding through illustration. As a young student and street artist with few resources, he designed graphic imagery that transferred handily onto public walls. Shepard’s consistency with technique, visual shorthand, and repetition of key imagery led the public to recognize his work over time.
As his artistic vocabulary expanded, Shepard maintained his focus on identifiable symbols as the best way to communicate his ideas. His frequent illustrations of famous cultural or political figures like Barack Obama contribute to the mythos surrounding his work and its subject matter. Whether amplifying his heroes or critiquing villains of the socio-political landscape, Shepard continues exploring the essence of the icon through his provocative ideas and designs.
ICONS runs through Dec. 30, 2023, at Subliminal Projects in L.A. For more information, please visit Subliminal Projects’ website here.