Over 100 pieces will go on display at White Walls in a timely new show called “Duality in Humanity.” The show marks a bit of a departure for the artist, whose unique form of reverse propaganda emerged from the spirit of the punk movement. With this show, Shepard takes a step back from the ‘calls to action’ against mindless consumerism and war evidenced in previous shows like 1984ia, E Pluribus Venom and Imperfect Union. “The difference between this show and the previous ones is that now Obama is in the mix,” Shepard said. His recent work reflects his own personal shift towards a new optimism, a direct result of his involvement with, and inspiration by, the powerful political ideals of Barack Obama.
The title of the show, “Duality of Humanity,” is inspired by the peace-sign wearing US soldier in Vietnam, ‘Joker,’ in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. A central piece is a child with a gun in his hand and a flower in his hat. That theme of soldiers and weapons bearing peace signs, or peace signs comprised of military effects, runs through many pieces in the show. Environmental themes also appear in some pieces, illustrating the tenuous balance between our dangerously uncontrolled consumption of non-renewable resources, and our well-intentioned eco-concerns. Suffering and hope are seamlessly merged in a visual mash-up that defies expectations and easy answers.
“Duality of Humanity” includes larger mixed media pieces on paper that has been covered with carefully collaged Ephemera, self-printed patterns and found clippings from printed media. The backgrounds provide a seductive painterly texture and visual subtext, often allowing apropos words and images to bleed through the iconic images printed over them. The multiple layers create a sense of depth, but also bring in temporal elements through preserved newsclippings, historic images and vintage printing effects. It is the images in the foreground, however, that give the work its power. They are crisp and provocative, communicating in a way that is direct and clear.