Becoming famous thanks to the manifesto called “Hope”, Barack Obama’s four colours portrait was created for the American presidential election campaign in 2008. Its author, Shepard Fairey – codename Obey – is nowadays considered one of the best-known street artists in the world and Palazzo Ducale in Genoa (Piazza Matteotti 9) has dedicated a personal exhibition to his talent. Humanitarian themes like justice and civil rights are central to his work and they reveal an incisive and direct style inspired by Soviet prints and futuristic graphics of the early 20th century, by Latin American and Italian wall paintings following Mario Sironi’s style. Stefano Antonelli, co-curator of the exhibition together with Gianluca Marziani explains: “Works sizes are inclined to gigantism when the chosen context is the street, while they decrease in case of objects functional to the project (album covers, skateboard, poster and other objects…). In both cases, Obey gives to the old stylistic elements of the wall painting propaganda a contemporary twist. He creates very intense paper prints; you can almost hear Angela Davis’ cathartic scream or feel the democratic hope expressed by Barack Obama. Their figures capture the right frequencies and conquer the media stage of the new millennium”.
Genoese exhibition titled “Obey fidelity. The art of Shepard Fairey” focuses on four topics particularly dear to the artist: women, environment, peace and culture and it includes serigraphs and lithographs from private collections featuring a political and social background. Among them we can find “We the people – defend dignity”, a political graphic that symbolizes an answer to the xenophobic, racist and anti-immigrant feeling that is currently spreading in America or the recent “Angel of Hope and Strength” where a nurse with celestial wings holding a torch evokes the heroes who fought the Covid-19 pandemic. The work dates back to May 2020 and will be printed on t-shirts whose sales will support the activity of the Italian Red Cross. The above-mentioned “Hope” that is part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery in Washington, of course couldn’t miss this exhibition.
Peter Schjeldah, The New Yorker’s art critic, has identified it as “the most effective American political illustration since Uncle Sam”. The exhibition can be visited until the 1st November following the security measures against Covid-19, which require a facial masks and the respect of social distancing between visitors that is properly marked in green colours throughout the expositive path.
Above: One of the works by Obey. (Detail)