The artwork in 50 Shades of Black is inspired by the 12-inch record cover format. Since 2006 Shepard Fairey has continuously created artwork with the record cover template in mind. The first time he presented his full body of work in one space was in 2011 for the Revolutions Exhibition at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica, California. The second instalment was presented at Stolen Space Gallery in London, UK in 2012 as ‘Sound & Vision’. The 50 Shades of Black show is back on Shepard’s home turf of Los Angeles and the opening night event will include a performance by DJ Z-Trip who created the soundtrack to the ‘Sound & Vision’ show.
50 Shades of Black will feature 50 Hand Painted Multiples and a box set with screen print editions of each of the 50 new album cover designs; a record store installation with customised vintage turntables and a portion of Shepard’s own record collection will also be on view. Viewers can participate in the exhibition by selecting records from Shepard’s collection and playing them on the provided record players whilst visiting the gallery.

“The artwork in 50 Shades of Black is representative of how music has long since been an inspiration for Shepard as ‘a democratic medium that can bring joy whilst also delivering provocative and compelling social commentary.’ His album cover art seeks to convey the infectious accessibility that music has in a visually compelling way. His art also succeeds in striking certain social and political chords through his careful consideration of which music personalities and movements he chooses to echo within each unique design.
Music has taught me a great deal about connecting with a broad audience. Music is universal. I’ve had some very moving encounters with art in my life, especially in the street, but almost nothing can compare to the first time I heard the boots marching and first chord of the Sex Pistols’ ‘Holidays in the Sun’ or the air raid sirens leading and ‘too black, too strong’ on the intro to Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ or the opening guitar scream of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above.’
Music is visceral but also has the additional powerful layers of the lyrics with their content and politics; then there’s also the style and personalities of the musicians themselves. Compelling album covers have always been a great complement to great music; there’s something subversive about bundling seductive visuals with provocative ideas or provocative visuals with seductive ideas. An audience that’s looking for escape doesn’t expect a confrontation and a call-to-action but I believe the best music and the best art can deliver both. Call the approach ‘hi-brow/lo-fi’ or ‘lo-brow/hi-fi’ but I try to use it in my artwork to capture the same energy and spirit that makes music so powerful.” – Shepard Fairey

Shepard does visually what I do musically. We have many of the same influences; it made perfect sense for us to collaborate on 50 Shades of Black. I am honoured to be a part of it. – Z-Trip
The show will run from 16th April until the 17th May.


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