While Moscow is waiting for the end of quarantine, we decided to tell about the first- ever solo exhibition of OBEY, or Shepard Fairy, one among the most influential street artists of our time, held at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.

Who is he, a fan of George Orwell novels and what is known for?
The first fame came to him after a series of prints featuring the wrestler Andre the Giant - this logo is one of the most recognizable in pop culture. As well as Fairy's other work, the poster for the 2008 Barack Obama election campaign, cited many times.
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"Rodchenko and his circle, of course, influenced me a lot"- says Shepard, and only this is so dear to us. In all of his works, Soviet Constructivism is read. In colors, graphic forms, in slogans and messages.

The DIY philosophy of the skateboarders' and punks' milieu, the milieu identifies himself with, dismisses the urge to comply with any conventions, declaring absolute freedom of expression. Building his frame of reference on this philosophy, Shepard Fairey constructs his 'artistic messages' intended to provoke critical response to a familiar social environment. The 'OBEY GIANT' campaign, with the portrait of a French wrestler André the Giant at its core, was the first artistic realization of the DIY principles. With this campaign, Fairey challenges the public to grasp human freedom and lack thereof within the system of society's rules.

The DIY subculture is far from being the only source of Fairey's inspiration. The Russian Avant-garde, particularly Alexander Rodchenko and Stenberg brothers, inspired the Constructivist element of his art. Elaborating the design of stickers, posters and stencils, Shepard chooses to use a minimalistic colour palette, emblematic pictorial system, expressive script. The artistic language he favours serves to create a laconic image comprehensible to all and sundry. The same idea underlies his use of the Pop Art discourse and, above all, a familiar iconography. While Warhol used images of celebrities and mass market goods, Shepard makes a point of his sociopolitical issues and humanitarian values, channeling his civic stance.
The display is structured on thematic principle and shows the key motifs and stages of the artist's evolution, from his fascination with underground art and Soviet Constructivist Art to Pop Art and advertising design.
Shepard's project "Force Majeure" showed the works created by him over the past 25 years, as well as new works prepared especially for the exhibition in MMOMA. Shepard's art, by his own definition, is a reaction to force majeure, an attempt to fight using the provocative language of street art. Whether it is posters dedicated to war and peace or the issue of protecting the environment - they are propaganda in nature, combine conflicting characters, offering the viewer ambiguous interpretations.

In his works frequent references to George Orwell's novels are visible (His novel "1984", by the way, is highly recommended to read. This work influenced many artists, and the writer found inspiration (spoiler) in the Stalin era. And it's very easy to read:)

Dualism is visible in Shepard's works "Dark Wave", "Global Warning", "Paradise Turns", where he depicts an idyllic landscape, but hints that due to the interests of corporations, the environment may be destroyed.
Shepard lives and works on the principle of "doing good and responding to evil", striving with the help of graphic design traditions to "catch something universal and eternal, but also relevant at the time of crisis and necessity." The exhibition at MMOMA corresponds to the author's position and is, on the one hand, an analysis of his activities, and on the other, an appeal to the general public for responsible freedom.

At the end of summer 2018, the artist also painted one of the capital's facades as part of the Biennale of Street Art: the first Russian mural by Shepard Fairy can be seen on the facade of the building at 12, Mytnaya street. The exposition is built on a thematic principle and reflects the key motives in the author's work: from love for underground and Soviet constructivism to pop art and advertising design.
Shepard regularly publishes his new works in Instagram, that is followed by more than a million subscribers.
Author Anna Laza
of Obey
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