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Shepard Fairey @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery

06.27.07   |   Posted in: Art & Design, Events   |   By: Kellis Landrum
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Shepard Fairey’s new show E Pluribus Venom opens to the public this saturday at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NY. This show will be the artist’s first solo show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery and will feature a second, off-site exhibition space for the artist to exhibit large-scale installations and murals on wood and canvas. Shepard Fairey’s provocative collection includes politically charged paintings, screen prints, stencils, album covers and mixed media pieces rich with metaphor, humor and seductive decorative elements.


E Pluribus Venom, which translates “out of many, poison,” is derived from E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) an early motto adopted by the U.S. government, which appears on U.S. coins and dollar bills. For Shepard Fairey, many becoming one, or a loss of power and the influence of the individual in favor of homogeny is a symptom of a society in decline. E Pluribus Venom entails a two-fold metaphor: referring to the poison in the American system and the individuals who are motivated by venom and have anger towards this system.


The exhibition is comprised of artworks designed to scrutinize the dichotomy of symbols and methods associated with ideologies of the American Dream. Fairey’s artwork comments on underpinnings of the capitalist machine, critiquing those who support blind nationalism and war. Fairey addresses monolithic institutional authority, the role of counter culture, and independent individuals who question the cultural paradigm. Utilizing currency motifs and a Norman Rockwell aesthetic, Fairey employs the graphic language of the subjects they critique. Blending Art Nouveau, hippie, and revolutionary propaganda styles, he celebrates subjects advocating peace. His works blur the perceived barriers between propaganda and escapist decoration, political responsibility and humor with the intent of stimulating both viscerally and intellectually.

18 Responses to “Shepard Fairey @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery”

  1. Shepard Fairey @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery « Dustbowl Says:

    [...] Link via Neu Black [...]

  2. odin1 Says:

    That shit’s disturbing.

    I heard the “splasher” hit Obey’s studio wall on Sunset Blvd & dumped paint thiner down his vents.

    This dude’s in it for real. We want the truth.

  3. Jiatsu Says:


    In response to Fairey’s solo exhibition, Imperfect Union, (December, 2007) at the Merry Karnowski Gallery in Los Angeles, California, Mark Vallen, renowned artist, activist, illustrator and curator criticizes Fairey’s work and career as an artist, in a essay published on his Art for a Change web site. Vallen expresses his outrage at how Fairey has made a career “out of the consistent, secretive and wholesale copying of other people’s artworks” and describes why, in his opinion, “it should make obvious that anyone so ill-informed should not be in the vanguard of today’s political art”. He identifies Fairey’s work as “machine art that any second-rate art student could produce” by picking apart Fairey’s heavy usage of “silly portraits of a dead wrestling champion” as well as “absurdist propaganda”. Vallen acuses Fairey of “toying with the veneer of radical politics” when “his views are hollow and non-committal”. Vallen also explains how Fairey is “deceiving people by pawning off counterfeit works as original creations” with numerous examples of original pieces shown side by side with Fairey’s “lucrative OBEY fashion line” version. In the example of the White Panther logo, Vallen emphasizes that by “exploiting the panther logo for profit by printing it on boutique clothing, Fairey has accelerated the dehistoricization and commodification of American history”, and in his opinion, “has forfeited his ability to speak as a dissident”. He states that “Fairey is guilty of utilizing historic images simply because he “likes” them, and not because he has any grasp of their significance as objects of art or history”. Vallen further supports that “Fairey simply filches artworks and hopes that no one notices” and that “these days any amateur with a minimally written crackpot manifesto can make waves in the world of art”. If Fairey has “developed a profitable livelihood exclusively based on pilfering the artworks of others”, Vallen ultimately asks “can Shepard Fairey honestly be described as an artist who can critically assess the unholy union of government and big business, or offer comments on the underpinnings of the capitalist machine?”. Koloman Moser, Ralph “Bingo” Chaplin, Pirkle Jones, Rupert Garcia, Rene Mederos, Félix Beltrán and Gary Grimshaw are a few of the plagiarized artists that are mentioned in Vallen’s critique.

  4. Neu Black Says:

    OMFG, this is like comparing the sex pistols to Mozart. Sure Sid Vicious could barely play bass, but if you let that stop you from liking the Sex Pistols your totally missing the point. This guy needs to take the stick out of his butt and lay off the haterade.

  5. Admonkey Says:

    Mark Vallen is simply trying to jumpstart his go-nowhere career by bashing someone who actually HAS one. It’s a time-honored tradition among the second-rate and failing. The fact that he passed out literature– including HIS OWN ART– amongst those standing in line at Fairey’s show ought to tell you he’s simply an opportunist out to raise his own profile. If he were truly interested in constructive dialogue he would have picked up the phone and made the local call to Fairey to ask him about it. Then, if he wasn’t satisfied with the answers– or at least wanted to include them– he could have offered up the other side of the coin. Instead, he posted a shrill call of “Look at Me!” in hopes of selling a few more canvases of his Jr. High caliber artwork. Pretty sad, really.

  6. Elbee Says:

    I like Fairey´s graphic style.
    But the guy is a plagiarist. Plain and simple.
    Even if Mark Vallen has the worst of intentions, it still doesnt change the fact that the side-by-side comparisons of Faireys work and those of others leaves no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that he totally lacks professional integrity and obviously also inspiration to create original work.

    Now he is making a bundle copying others, and people either dont want to believe he is a fake, or they dont care.
    As they say; The bigger the lie, the more believe it.

  7. “We made history” : Says:

    [...] Shepard Fairey @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery [...]

  8. “We made history” : Lyonel Kaufmann blogue… Says:

    [...] Shepard Fairey @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery [...]

  9. LINK Says:

    If Fairey is a plagiarist then so are Giorgione, Titian & Manet

  10. mackd Says:

    plagiarist and a shallow hypocrite, and laughing all the way to the bank i’m sure. without irony. what an unimaginative loser.

  11. Remember Says:

    What a bunch of idiot comments about Fairey. You people are stupider than you have a right to be.This guy Fairey has made a career out of lifting images that don’t belong to him then passing them off as his own. As an artist myself this is the lowest thing you can do. He doesn’t deserve any support as an artist. You people that believe he doesn’t do this are gravely misinformed and need to do your homework before you embrace your poster boy. Now I see the Obama picture was lifted as well! Great Artist indeed. Great hack non-artist is more like it.

  12. MindOnFire Says:

    You uppity bitches need to get off your clouds. Speaking as an RI native who actively watched Fairey’s RISD thesis on phenomenology in action – how it influenced and inspired the cult punk culture, how made people actively think about how propaganda plays an influence in their lives – I can only laugh at the plainly jealous and shallow comments barked-out above. Who have you inspired lately? Seriously. Mark Vallen can write a tomb about how much he thinks Fairey doesn’t reach his higher plane of art-being (that, apparently, you few unknown and unremembered deviants seem to appreciate). Guess what Mark (and shortsighted loyalists) …history is going to remember Fairey, not you.

  13. MindOnFire Says:

    I mean seriously, really? This is the grand critic: ? What a disappointment.

  14. Elbee Says:

    MindOnFire; check out the original artworks Fairey copied/stencilled,
    I believe you will find them at least as inspiring as Fairey´s “work”.

    Fairey may be a great craftsman, but if he were truly original, why does he have to copy others to make a statement…and a living?

  15. WiseAcre Says:

    Did any of the naysayers trouble themselves to read the exhibit description? It describes Fairey’s work as: “artworks designed to scrutinize the dichotomy of SYMBOLS and METHODS associated with IDEOLOGIES of the American Dream….”

    “Fairey['s work] employs the graphic language of the subjects [it] critiques.”

    His works BLUR THE PERCEIVED BARRIERS between propaganda and escapist decoration, political responsibility and humor WITH THE INTENT OF STIMULATING both viscerally and intellectually.

    The “plagiarism” or use of SYMBOL is a commentary, dude. It is SUPPOSED to be provocative. Consider yourselves provoked. Could it be that you are brainwashed by the monolithic authority he is mocking?

  16. Ministry of Thought Says:

    Time and Time and Time and Time AGAIN. WiseAcre has got it right, and furthermore, throughout history there are numerous examples of artists taking existing works and making something new. In the simple creation of another image, there is art. This delves into the arguments of “high” art and “low” art… which is something the upper class has been doing for ages, legitimizing only what they believe serves their purpose. Fairey’s work might sell for very elevated amounts, but there are numerous “single” prints that are offered at a price that we (meaning the 99 percent of us that are not upper class) can afford.

    As far as the historical context of what he might be “stealing”, if someone didn’t create a slide show to show how horrible Fairey is, would people know those works existed? Would the masses have seen them in their pre-conditioned history books? Never would they have been privy to these beautiful images of dissent… OF COURSE NOT. We are only shown what fits the pre-determined history of the way things “should” be. I praise Fairey for revitalizing this art form, if it angered you enough to create your own slide show, then thank you for dusting off the decades of dust on those images and putting them forth. If this is plagiarism, “low” art, and devaluing history – we’ll then, I’m a fan. ROCK AND ROLL.

  17. Robert Teslow Says:

    Shepard visited our high school studio art classroom (The Blake School) in connection with Walker Art Center’s Teen Arts Council (WACTAC). He engaged these 14-18 year old student artists in their own street vernacular. The practice of appropriation while adding a personal voice, as Shepard does, goes beyond a sense of making a copy.

    Students understood Shepard’s edgy use of graphics and his guerilla approach for displaying his art. More established and emerging artists should reach out to high school students to enlighten and heighten awareness of historical and current social issues in approaches that are easily accessible outside of the museum/gallery as well as in curated exhibits.

  18. "E Pluribus Venom": Shepard Fairey en Asbury Park - I Told You So!! Says:

    [...] Info vía y [...]

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