January 8, 2014

The Insistent Image:Recurrent Motifs in the art of Shepard Fairey andJasper Johns

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, School of the Arts at the College of Charleston

Left: Shepard Fairey, Endless Power, 2013. Mixed media painting (stencil, silkscreen and collage) on canvas, 44 in x 60 inches. Right: Jasper Johns, Bushbaby, 2004. Intaglio in 10 colors, 43 in x 30 inches. Edition of 55. Published by Universal Limited Art Editions. © 2004 Jasper Johns/ Universal Limited Art Editions/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art celebrates its 30th anniversary with The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns. This exhibition pairs new work by Shepard Fairey and a survey of prints from 1982 to 2012 by Jasper Johns at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE). The exhibition is curated by Mark Sloan, senior curator and director of the Halsey Institute.

Both Fairey and Johns recycle graphic elements in the works they produce and in each case these repeated fragments gain new meaning through fresh juxtapositions and associations. Additionally, both artists have the capacity to transform the quotidian into the iconic.

Shepard Fairey
According to Fairey, his new work is a “celebration and critique of Americana with an emphasis on gas stations, gas and oil logos, and iconography as a part of what literally and metaphorically drives America in good and bad ways.” He will be showing a group of paintings, works on paper, and screen prints within the main gallery space at the Halsey Institute as well as a series of large-scale murals in locations throughout Charleston.

Born in 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina, this will be Fairey’s first major exhibition in his hometown.  Fairey has become one of the most visible street artists in the world. Straddling the realms of fine, commercial, and street art, Fairey’s work resists easy classification. The artist exploits the gaps between these genres to produce works that frequently take on social and political issues.

His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns will be represented by a series of sixteen prints made in collaboration with master printmaker Bill Goldston at ULAE in New York. This selection emphasizes many of Johns’ recurrent motifs and themes including flags, the face/vase optical illusion, targets, galaxies, gestures from American Sign Language, and fragments of works by famous artists such as Picasso, Holbein, da Vinci, and George Ohr, and others. Through a special arrangement with the artist and ULAE, we are able to borrow some of Johns’ most iconic works for this exhibition.

Born in 1930, Johns spent his childhood in South Carolina, and briefly attended the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in 1948. After meeting Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage, his work pulled away from the Abstract Expressionist style that was prevalent at that time, and he embraced a new kind of artmaking based on the premise of re-presenting the familiar in surprising ways. Johns’ work complicates the relationship between the subject and its depiction in a work of art. Johns has had one of the most illustrious careers of any American artist, with major exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Kunstmuseum Basel, and, most recently The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to list a few.

Johns was longtime friends with William Halsey, the artist for whom the Halsey Institute was named.

More about the exhibition
While the Halsey institute is best known for showing the work by emerging and mid-career artists, director Mark Sloan wanted to “highlight the accomplishments of two native sons as a way to demonstrate the fact that important contemporary art can originate anywhere.” Both Fairey and Johns have had a long association with the Halsey Institute and this exhibition brings these two celebrated artists together for the first time in their home state.

Funding for the exhibition has been provided in part by Obey Clothing.

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