Imperfect Union by Obey

Presented by Merry Karnowsky Gallery

Imperfect Union, the largest Los Angeles solo exhibit of new works by Shepard Fairey. This show displays a provocative collection of politically charged paintings, screen prints, stencils, album covers and mixed media pieces rich with metaphor, humor and seductive decorative elements. Imperfect Union is derived from the first line of the U.S. Constitution „We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union‰. For Shepard Fairey, critiquing the imperfect union, far from disparaging the United States, is a patriotic step toward shaping a more perfect union.

The exhibition is comprised of artworks which scrutinize the dynamics of the imperfect union such as the unholy union of government and big business and the dichotomy of symbols and methods associated with ideologies of the American Dream. Fairey‚s artwork comments on underpinnings of the capitalist machine and monolithic institutional authority critiquing those who support blind nationalism and war. Conversely, Fairey recognizes that most individuals would rather suffer than stand up for their beliefs as illuminatingly expressed in the Declaration of Independence with the statement “all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Fairey celebrates the role of counter culture, and independent individuals willing to question the cultural paradigm and advocate peace. Fairey employs the graphic language of the subjects he critiques or celebrates blending
Art Nouveau, hippie, currency and revolutionary propaganda styles. His works utilize bold iconography coupled with decorative elements and, upon closer inspection, reveal sophisticated layers of collage. The resulting pieces are both boldly aggressive and seductively subtle.


One thought on “Imperfect Union by Obey

  1. 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. [

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