May 1st was the opening of what may surpass Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop as the street art event of the year so far: Shepard Fairey’s May Day show at Deitch Projects. Because the opening evening was open the public instead of simply a guest-list-only affair, it got a bit mad. I’ve heard that lines were 7 blocks long just to get in. And a friend tells me that the after-party was one of the best parties of the year. It’s taken a few days, but some photos of the artwork have finally come online.
The largest piece in the show (pictured above) is a 4-part series of canvases similar to the mural that Shepard has at Houston and Bowery. No doubt it will end up in a museum. The question is, which one? Perhaps more importantly, should it end up in a museum? It is really Shepard’s strongest work to date, or just his largest?
Capitalizing on the popularity of the Obama HOPE poster, Shepard has almost definitely made more than his usual number of portraits for this May Day, so that’s too bad.
Shepard’s flag is probably the most visually arresting and art historically significant newish image in May Day. Shepard no doubt owes a lot to Jasper Johns, particularly Johns’ use of newspaper and other materials collaged together as a base for his paintings, so it’s interesting to see Shepard’s take on the American flag (I should probably remind people that no, I don’t study art history or whatever, this is just my take on things, so no need to get all pissy – though I wouldn’t mind hearing if I’m totally wrong). Probably my favorite pieces in the show.
Two of my favorite classic Shepard Fairey images in the photo below: The OBEY printing press and Never Trust Your Own Eyes.
And of course, plenty of smaller stencils and rubyliths.
Is there a lot of not-so-amazing stuff in May Day? Of course. Is there some amazing artwork too? Of course. Shepard has always produced so much that it’s all a bit hit or miss, but those hits are more than worth wading through the misses. I wish I could see May Day in person. Looks like the must-see art event in New York right now. May Day runs through May 29th and then Deitch Projects closes down for good as Jeffrey Deitch takes up his new job as director of The MOCALA.