Street artist Shepard Fairey’s star has been rising steadily ever since the 2008 presidential campaign, when he designed the Barack Obama “HOPE” image that became one of the most widely recognized images of that historic election. This past weekend, crowds packed the opening of May Day, Fairey’s exhibition of new work at the prominent Soho gallery Deitch Projects.
Open through May 29, May Day features striking portraits of artists, musicians and activists, and other images celebrating free speech and expressing Fairey’s distress over the two-party political system, global warming and other political, economic, and cultural issues. As well as signifying a celebration of spring, and the International Day of the Worker (May 1), the exhibit’s title also refers to the “mayday” call used by pilots to signal an emergency. Fairey will be the last artist to be shown at Deitch Projects, as art dealer Jeffrey Deitch is moving to Los Angeles to become director of that city’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
To coincide with the exhibition, Fairey has installed several other public murals in locations around the city, including the largest (pictured above and below) on the side of a building at Houston Street and the Bowery. In 1982, the same space was home to a Keith Haring mural, which was repainted in 2008. In the summer of 2009, a pair of Brazilian brothers known as Os Gemeos painted a new mural on the wall, covering the Haring work; Fairey’s installation is pasted onto a plywood structure built over the Os Gemeos mural. Problems have plagued the Houston and Bowery site, including nighttime graffiti bombings (forcing Fairey to restore his work more than once already) and complaints by the city’s Department of Buildings over the legality of the structure.
Fairey’s other New York installations can be found at the Cooper Square Hotel, the Ace Hotel and the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. For the next few weeks, Fairey fans can also buy clothes and other accessories at a pop-up shop located at 151 Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side.