When Shepard Fairey arrived in Providence in October, he received a hero’s welcome. Fairey presented a public lecture at the RISD auditorium, and a short documentary about his 30-year career was also screened. AS220 hosted Facing the Giant, a retrospective exhibit of Fairey’s poster art. At the gallery opening, Fairey DJ’d the event himself. This is an astounding turn of events for the picaresque street artist, who graduated from RISD in 1992.
During his time in Providence, Fairey started to paste “Obey Giant” stickers on public surfaces; the simplified portrait of Andre the Giant became a hit among skateboarders, then gradually won global attention. Fairey’s fame grew exponentially in 2008 with his “Hope” poster, the ubiquitous image of Barack Obama. But the trip’s most lasting mark is a public mural – his 100th – hand-painted across the Founder’s League building in Downcity. The model was Anjel Newmann, the youth director of AS220, who took classes at the art center as a teenager. Painted in roughly the same color scheme as “Hope,” the new mural is Fairey’s philosophy writ large: “Creativity is the mechanism of self-liberation.” See the mural yourself at 91 Clemence Street