Peter Schjeldahl examines Shepard Fairey in the New Yorker:
The thirty-nine-year-old Fairey, a Los Angeles-based street artist, graphic designer, and entrepreneur, was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father is a doctor. At fourteen, Fairey, a budding rascal, started decorating skateboards and T-shirts. He graduated from the technically rigorous Rhode Island School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in illustration, in 1992. While a student in Providence, he took to applying gnomic stickers and posters, without permission, to buildings and signs. [ . . . ] Fairey’s street work popularized a going fashion for academic deconstruction, with pretensions to exposing the malign operations of mass culture. Hip rather than populist, the Andre campaign projects an audience dumb enough to fall for media manipulation while smart enough to absorb a critique of it. [ . . . ] Like the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who included a Louis Vuitton boutique in his Los Angeles retrospective, Fairey reverses a revolution achieved by Warhol, along with Roy Lichtenstein. He embraces a trend in what the critic Dave Hickey has called “pop masquerading as art, as opposed to art masquerading as pop.”
The aesthetics of Fairey’s Boston show are formulaic, but they exercise immediate power. He is a terrific designer. His screenprints on paper, canvas, plastic, and metal, from found photographs and illustrations—publicity portraits, vintage advertising and propaganda, historical icons (Patty Hearst with a machine gun), satirically altered cash and stock certificates—deploy a standard palette of acrid red, yellowish white, and black. (The red, white, and blue of “Hope” were an ad-hoc departure.) Often, the images are overlaid on printed or collaged grounds of wallpaperlike pattern or fragments of newspaper pages, which impart a palimpsestic texture and a flavor of antiquity. Fairey’s stylistic borrowings from Russian Revolutionary, Soviet, and W.P.A. propaganda are often remarked upon, but borrowedness itself—studied anachronism—is his mode of seduction.
Hope and Glory (New Yorker)