Sunday, March 27, 2016

Shepard Fairey

Sad face over album cover art. Like the seminal music of the 21st Century, album cover art is there, but the masses can't see it for the trees. Unlike the music though, there's little reason for album cover art in our digital world. Music and artwork go hand in hand and always did, and fortunately, despite the digital format and the lack of necessity, digital music is still packaged as if there was a greater demand for the virtual package (and with the renewed interest in vinyl, maybe there's good reason). Gone are the days of Peter Blake, Hipgnosis, Roger Dean and Peter Saville, but enter the likes of Stanley Donwood, Leif Podhajsky and graffiti artist and Obey creator, Shepard Fairey.

Fairey single-handedly put Barack Obama on the ballot with his iconic red, white and blue Hope posters in 2008, and since that time, Fairey's artwork has become as iconic as the president. It interestingly started with the guerrilla art tactics that pasted the face of boxing legend, Andre the Giant, all across Los Angeles, and continues today with an empire that essentially fell in Shepard's lap.

Fairey's work as a rock album designer says more about the rock artist fitting into the artwork than it did in Roger Dean days. Album covers were designed with an LP theme in mind or at the behest of the band, at worst an artist/artist collaboration, but for Fairey, it's the artist's vision in which the rock artist melds. 

"Long before I knew about art galleries or even street art, I was excited about album cover art, if only because it was the visual counterpart to the music on the records I loved," Fairey has said. "Album covers conjured a euphoric association with the listening experience. Most of my earliest home-made tee shirts were stencils based on punk album covers. I’ve had some very moving encounters with art in my life, especially in the street, but almost nothing can compare with the first time I heard the boots marching and first chord of the Sex Pistols' 'Holidays in the Sun,' or the air raid sirens leading into 'Too black, too strong' on the intro to Public Enemy’s 'It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,' or the opening guitar scream of Black Flag's 'Rise Above.'" It's that kind of a connection that makes Shepard Fairey, even if only digitally, the next gen of LP artists.