Nothing can compare to New York in the springtime. As soon as the warm weather hits, New Yorkers come out of hibernation filling the city streets, skin exposed, congregating with friends and enjoying what their grand city has to offer.
This weekend presented us with the opportunity to attend May Day, an exhibition of new work by Shepard Fairey at Deitch Projects. For those of you who do not know, this will be Deitch Project’s last show.
We had the luxury of experiencing a private tour the day before the opening to take in Fairey’s new collection of work. And then again on opening day—we waited in line with the masses (for an hour and a half), to experience the excitement and crowd anticipation firsthand. We highly recommend you stop by to see for yourself.
According to Deitch Projects
With energy and urgency befitting the title May Day, Fairey captures the radical spirit of each of his subjects, using portraiture to celebrate some of the artists, musicians and political activists he most admires. Says Fairey, “These people I’m portraying were all revolutionary, in one sense or another. They started out on the margins of culture and ended up changing the mainstream. When we celebrate big steps that were made in the past, it reminds us that big steps can be made in the future.”
Many of the steps Fairey refers to involve the advocacy of the working class, put forth in the songs of Joe Strummer and Woody Guthrie and the writings of Cornel West, and among the works of other heroes portrayed in May Day. International Worker’s Day celebrated in nearly 100 countries throughout the world, commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago when a peaceful rally supporting workers on strike was disrupted by a bomb, and then a barrage of police gunfire. Because of negative sentiment surrounding the incident, U.S. President Grover Cleveland decided it was best to avoid celebrating the day, but it is precisely such sentiment that Fairey believes must be voiced: “It’s a day to express frustration with the powers that be, but also a day for activists to pursue ideals.” In May Day, he does both, with images supporting free speech and bemoaning the U.S. two party political system, pushing for renewable energy and critiquing corporate propaganda.
In Fairey’s mind, the persistence of difficulties across all of these arenas— political, environmental, economic, cultural— points to that third meaning of May Day: a distress signal. “By now we thought we would be in post-Bush utopia, but we’re still having to call attention to these problems,” he remarks. Like any mayday call, however, the sounding of the alarm also brings hope for help on the way. “If we stay silent, there’ is no hope,” Fairey muses. “But if we make noise, if we put our ideas out there, then maybe we can make a change like the people in the portraits have done.”
May 1, 2010 — May 29, 2010
18 Wooster Street, New York City