The artwork in 50 Shades of Black is inspired by the 12-inch record cover format. Since 2006, Fairey, a DJ and music enthusiast, has continuously created artwork with the record cover template in mind. The 2011 Revolutions exhibition was the first time he presented his then full body of work (consisting of 70+ pieces) in one space at Robert Berman Gallery (Santa Monica, Calif.). The second installment was presented at Stolen Space Gallery (London, UK) in 2012 as Sound & Vision. The 50 Shades of Black show is back on Fairey’s home turf of Los Angeles and the opening night event will include a performance by legendary DJ Z-Trip, who created the soundtrack to Fairey’s Sound & Vision show.
50 Shades of Black will feature 50 Hand Painted Multiples (HPMs) and a box set with screen print editions of each of the 50 new album cover designs. A record store installation with customized vintage turntables and a portion of Fairey’s own record collection will also be on view. Viewers can participate in the exhibition by selecting records from Fairey’s collection and playing them on the provided record players while visiting the gallery.
The artwork in 50 Shades of Black is representative of how music has long since been an inspiration for Fairey as “…a democratic medium that can bring joy while also delivering provocative and compelling social commentary.” His album cover art seeks to convey the infectious accessibility that music has in a visually compelling way. Fairey’s art also succeeds in striking certain social and political chords through his careful consideration of which music personalities and movements he chooses to echo within every unique design.
Music has taught me a great deal about connecting with a broad audience. Music is universal. I’ve had some very moving encounters with art in my life, especially in the street, but almost nothing can compare to 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.” Music is visceral, but also has the additional powerful layers of the lyrics, with their content and politics, and then there’s also the style and personalities of the musicians themselves. Compelling album covers have always been a great complement to great music. There’s something subversive about bundling seductive visuals with provocative ideas, or provocative visuals with seductive ideas. An audience that’s looking for escape doesn’t expect a confrontation and a call to action, but I believe the best music, and the best art, can deliver both. Call the approach hi-brow/lo-fi or lo-brow/hi-fi, but I try to use it in my artwork to capture the same energy and spirit that makes music so powerful. – Shepard Fairey
Shepard does visually what I do musically. We have many of the same influences, it made perfect sense for us to collaborate on 50 Shades of Black, I am honored to be a part of it. – Z-Trip
About the Artist: Shepard Fairey was born in Charleston, S.C. He received his B.F.A. in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. While at R.I.S.D. he created the “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker that transformed into the OBEY GIANT art campaign with imagery that has changed the way people see art and the urban landscape. In 2008 his portrait of the then Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, with the message of ‘HOPE’ under the illustration, became an internationally recognized emblem of the campaign and a symbol of political change for many. In 2009 Fairey’s Obama portrait was inducted into the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery as the official presidential portrait. He has designed covers for magazines such as Time, Rolling Stone, and Esquire and continues to design album covers for a number of musicians and bands including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Henry Rollins, and Gaslamp Killer.
Since the beginning of his career in 1989, he has exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, such as: the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Mass.; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn.; Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. His works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and many others. Fairey also has an upcoming exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, S.C. scheduled to open in May 2014. Visit www.OBEYGIANT.com for more information.