WOW! – Work of the Week – Lawrence Schiller – Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake



Lawrence Schiller
Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake
1962-2007
Silver Gelatin Print
30 x 40 in.
Edition of 75
Signed and numbered in ink



About the work:

Lawrence Schiller began shooting Marilyn in 1960 on the set of “Let’s Make Love” when he was just 23 years old and he would be among those who took the very last stills of the actress.

As a model, Schiller has recounted, the Monroe was very easy to photograph, a “dream subject.” Their first time working together, she even coached him, saying: “That’s not the best angle for me. If you go over there the light will be better.” She knew what to do and understood light, as though she were both the shooter and subject.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Lawrence Schiller’s iconic photograph Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake.

Marilyn Monroe celebrated her last birthday on June 1, 1962 with the cast and crew of her final movie “Something’s Got to Give” in which she costarred with Dean Martin.

Three weeks prior to that, on May 17th, 1962, during the shooting of the movie she showed up and completed all her scenes by noon in order to secretly fly out to New York and sing “happy birthday” to President Kennedy on May 19th. Fox studios would then sue the actress for breach of contract. Despite the suit, filming continued, even on Marilyn’s birthday.

Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake was shot on set after a day of filming. Fox studios did not even so much as give Marilyn her birthday cake, which was purchased by her stand in. The actress, smiling broadly in front of the cake topped with sparkling candles commands all the attention. Set lights, ladders and props in the background are barely visible yet symbolic of the personal and professional turmoil of Marilyn Monroe’s life.

The actress was fired from the movie one week later on June 8th and Fox sued her again in an attempt to recover damages. Two months later, on August 5th, she would be found dead, in her home, at the age of 36.

Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake, which was purchased directly from Lawrence Schiller was released in 2007, the 45th anniversary of her passing. It comes with the hardcover book by the photographer documenting this photo shoot.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Rauschenberg – Soviet/American Array VI



Robert Rauschenberg
Soviet/American Array
1988-1990
Intaglio in 16 colors on Saunders paper
88 1/2 x 52 in.
Edition of 59
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Robert Rauschenberg was endlessly curious, creative and politically-minded. He is one of most influential artists of the post-war era and is credited with a revival and redefinition of printmaking. His aesthetic strategy included assemblage and collage of images of the everyday world, the juxtaposition of which, enhances their effects on each other to form a narrative.

Rauschenberg used his art as a means to depict political experiences of the time, which in turn allowed him to process them internally. Much of his political work is not only a meditation on the state of the nation but also on the state of the nation in relationship to the world.

For a conscientious citizen like Rauschenberg, who served in World War II, the overwhelming rise of the Cold War between post-war superpowers America and Soviet Union could not be ignored. He later explained that he had felt assaulted by current events. His resolution to this was undertaking and fostering cultural exchange through his ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange) initiative. Among his projects for the initiative was the Soviet/American Array series.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Soviet/American Array VI.

For Rauschenberg, current events directed his thinking and emotions of the time. Despite seemingly different worlds on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, Soviet/American Array VI reveals a surprising display of visual similarities across the Cold War divide. The piece was most likely inspired by Russia poet Andrei Voznesensky’s 1981 work entitled “Russian-American Romance:”

In my land and yours they do hit the hay
and sleep the whole night in a similar way.
There’s the golden Moon with a double shine.
It lightens your land and it lightens mine.
At the same low price, that is for free,
there’s the sunrise for you and the sunset for me.
The wind is cool at the break of day,
it’s neither your fault nor mine, anyway.
Behind your lies and behind my lies
there is pain and love for our Motherlands.
I wish in your land and mine some day
we’d put all idiots out of the way.

This work interweaves images of American life and Soviet life through the intaglio process in 16 colors. The work is very large, standing 88 1/2 in. high by 52 in. wide and was done in a very limited edition of 59 pieces. Some images are obvious such as the silhouette of a statue of Lenin and other, less recognizable images were taken from Rauschenberg’s travels throughout the Soviet Union and America. What is most interesting about the work is how difficult it is to discern which images represent the USSR and which represent the U.S.A.

In this piece Rauschenberg turns images from the two Cold War nations, which stressed their differences for over forty years, into a montage of an inextricably interconnected life, neither Soviet nor American, but an array of both.

Rauschenberg’s effort was to break through the pain. He stated in 1989: “My goal is to open people’s eyes to the surrounding reality, to deepen mutual understanding between people and to aspire for peace.” The aim of these works was “to shake people awake,” to the fact that despite ideological differences, people across the world are not all that different.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jeff Koons – Balloon Animals



Jeff Koons
Balloon Animals – Swan, Monkey & Rabbit
2017
Porcelain with metallic finish
Dimensions vary, see below
Edition of 999
Signed and numbered on bottom of each piece
$100,000 for the set of 3
Swan 8 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in.
Monkey 9 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 8 1/4 in.
Rabbit 11 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.


About the work:

Jeff Koons has cemented his position as the heir of the Pop Art movement by creating works that play with banal and familiar objects from our everyday lives through industrial methods. Koons’ reproductions of balloon animals are amongst some of his most recognizable pieces. The works reflect an element of childhood play and disposable culture but in an art-form meant to last.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Koons’ set of three porcelain, metallic finished Balloon Animals – the Swan, the Bunny and the Monkey.

Koons’ ballon animals tap into our memories and our emotions, in the eerily familiar and trustworhty form of a party favor. They are a symbol of our youth and they toy with our inner child’s fascination with a structure that is temporary. The emotional reaction that many of us have to an object that reminds us so vividly of the magic and charm of childhood is palpable, yet these are objects that one would never think of as a work of art.

Like his idol Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons has mastered the practice of taking a concept or idea and transforming it. Koons’ works are conceptual, and while they may prove challenging to grasp, they have definite aesthetic qualities and are subjected to intense attention to detail.

The balloon animals are intrinsically optimistic works. They remind the viewer of a birthday party or a clown, but to the artist they are also representative of life. As a viewer, we obviously observe the outermost elements of a work, yet, there is an interior to the work, a void full of air. To Koons, the interior of the piece is important, because it is just like the inflatable balloon animals of our youth, neither can exist without the air forming the interior element. It also symbolizes us individually, since as living beings we inhale air. To Koons, the act of inhaling air is life.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Andy Warhol – Dollar Sign FS II.278



Andy Warhol
Dollar Sign FS II.278
1982
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
19 5/8 x 15 5/8 in.
Edition of 60 unique works
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:

Power, Greed, Wealth, Success, Strength, Capitalism, Consumerism, Materialism; what symbol represents all these better than the US $ (Dollar Sign)?

“It’s all about the Benjamins!!!”

This weeks Work Of the Week (WOW!) is Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign ($), FS II 278. When it comes to a symbol of a world currency, none is more iconic the the US $ (Dollar Sign). No one thinks of the British Pound, the Euro, or the Yen. It is the US Dollar, and the dollar sign $, that is known and desired all over the world.

Art is always a extension and representation of the times. Andy Warhol began creating money imagery as early as the 1950’s. After WWII, America had solidified her position, strength, and power in the world. Here at home, America was entering the most financially sound period in her short history. Americans were experiencing a modern industrial revolution in manufacturing, home buying was at the highest level in history, television was new and advertisements were pitching the latest and greatest to a ripe audience, who for the first time had money to buy, and the growing middle class was the strongest it has ever been. American was flying high, and money was flowing.

The pop artists saw this, and their art reflected exactly what was going on. Jasper Johns’ American flag was an artistic symbol of patriotism. Robert Rauschenberg’s photo-journalistic style artistically documented the times, and Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol used their advertising backgrounds to create art that represented the influx of money, capitalism, consumerism that the American culture was experiencing at the time.

Yet it is timeless, just as it rang true over 50 years ago, it holds true today. Warhol’s Dollar Sign ($), is not just a cool image that was meant to hang behind the desk of some important CEO. It’s a statement. It’s an abstract statement, or concept if you will, on what money represents, and how this tiny piece of paper rules the world, (for better or for worse). Abstract in the sense that Warhol does not come right out and list the positives and negatives of money, he leaves that up to the viewer to form his or her own interpretations. To some who see the genius of Warhol it may seem deeper that what is looks like on the surface, and to some it may seem simple or obvious. But after all, Warhol’s take on Pop Art is in many ways, overstating the obvious.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Fulvio Bianconi – Pezzato Vase, Model 1329



Fulvio Bianconi
Pezzato Vase, Parigi, Model 1329
c. 1951
Polychrome patchwork glass
5 w x 4 1/2 d x 9 1/2 h in.
Signed Venini Italia to underside



About the work:

Fulvio Bianconi is one of the most important designers that generated the “Renaissance” of Venetian Murano glass-blowing art in the 20th century.

Bianconi was an innovator, focusing on pieces with sophisticated shapes, characterized by strong colors, designing striking works, some of which sum up the enthusiasm of the “fabulous” Fifties that would become icons of Murano glassmaking. He was the first glassmaker to portray human figures in glass, breaking with the long-held tradition of glass being perceived as a secondary material as far as artistic expression goes.

In 1946 he travelled many times to Murano to learn more about the art of glassmaking. Here he met Paolo Venini who, invited him to collaborate with his glassworks. From this collaboration the Figure della Commedia dell’Arte, the Tiepolos the Fazzoletto, the Sirene, the Pezzati and many others emerged.

New workmanship techniques of the glassmaking art and revision of the age-old ones were the subject of the creative research of Fulvio Bianconi. Molding movement and color into his glass pieces, Fulvio Bianconi established a totally up-to-date link with the history of Murano.

Before his innovations, glass had been used for utilitarian purposes. Bianconi pushed the limits of glassmaking in the traditional sense and material of glass itself by transforming it in both theory and practice. In his more than sixty years of artistic activity, he designed thousands of books, produced innumerous illustrations and paintings, and designed and created thousands of glass objects.

Bianconi was free to experiment with the formal qualities and potentials of glass as a fluid and organic medium. His earliest freelance work for Venini, which he not only designed but also cut and ground himself in order to become familiar with the medium, engages in a spontaneous aesthetic that intentionally and ironically protests against traditional values of perfect craftsmanship.

Fulvio Bianconi was one of the only glass designers who adapted trends in contemporary art into his work. There is an immediacy and flamboyancy in his aesthetic achieved through an improvised and freehand manipulation of glass while in the furnace. Rather than engage in the tradition of perfect repetition that had so long denoted artisanal excellence, Bianconi instead injected the individuality and expressivity of the artist’s hand into his glasswork designs. “The artistic glass,” wrote Bianconi, “must be unique, if it is repeated it loses its charm”. Though his idiosyncratic designs oftentimes brought him into direct conflict with the more restrained sensibilities of master Muranese glassworkers, it is exactly this freedom from traditional constraints that would lead Bianconi’s designs to have such a lasting influence.

An initial love for color and tendency towards abstraction would characterize the direction of Bianconi’s further creative evolution in the realm of glasswork. As he gained increasing confidence in his value as a designer, Bianconi reveled in the medium’s expressive potentials, and began to wholeheartedly utilize the luminosity of glass to develop intensely colorful displays that are almost painterly. Indeed, while form is always an essential part of Bianconi’s design, it is most often color that comes to the forefront as the true subject of his work.

This is particularly true of this week’s Work Of the Week (WOW!), which focuses on the Pezzato series, designed in 1950 and first displayed in the 1951 Triennale.

The Term “Pezzati” means spotted or patched, here, irregular patchworks of colored tesserae (small pieces of glass that form mosaics) are fused together to decorate and form the wall of the irregularly formed vase, in a seeming reference to both the theatricality of the harlequin’s outfit and Paul Klee’s work of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

This was a difficult technique, as each color has different properties, and they all have to be worked so that they get along with each other. To produce these Pezzati, the tesserae were first obtained from a cane flattened into a tape and cold-cut, and then arranged in a mosaic pattern on a fire stone. Once in the oven the effect of the heat welds the tesserae together forming a glass pattern, which then encloses into a cylinder shape to be worked into the final form, by blowing and hot-modeling.

For the Pezzati, Bianconi generally opted for unusual forms with flattened cross-sections, which were particularly irregular and characterized by soft lines, sometimes interrupted by constrictions and protrusions.

The Pezzati were proposed in 5 chromatic combinations, identified by the names of cities or continents: Paris, America, Stockholm, Istanbul and Venice. This Work Of the Week (WOW!) is from the Paris (Parigi) color scheme, composed of red, blue, green and clear tesserae. It is a prime example of Bianoni’s interest in color – bold and strong but calibrated. It also reveals his curiosity and innovative skills as well and his playful creative nature.

Fulvio Bianconi is a name well known to collectors of fine Italian glass. He designed many of the most important and original pieces associated with the mid 20th century Murano Italian glass, and the Pezzato pieces are among his most striking and sought after.

WOW! – Work of the Week – James Rosenquist – 1, 2, 3 Outside



James Rosenquist
1, 2, 3 Outside
1971
6 color lithograph with embossing and debossing
40 1/2 x 31 in.
Edition of 70
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered


About the work:

“Popular culture isn’t a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blur between images creates a kind of motion in the mind.”

James Rosenquist is best known for his colossal collage paintings of enigmatically juxtaposed fragmentary images. These images, brought together and enlarged overwhelm the viewer,  through their sheer scale which makes them difficult to discern at first glance. They are mostly fragments of enlarged, photo-realistic images done in the advertising style of the emergence of consumer culture in America during the 1960’s. This is no accident, Rosenquist started out his career as a billboard painter, and was among this first of the classic pop-artists to directly address the persuasive powers of advertising, highlighting the omnipresence of ads.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Rosenquist’s 1, 2, 3 Outside

1, 2, 3 Outside was originally painted in 1963 in a manner that denies each of the three panels immediate recognition due to the scale of each fragmented image, so enlarged that they are each removed from their original context. This is where Rosenquist’s fascination with subliminal persuasion through advertising becomes evident. Each image is artistically packaged based on defining characteristics and incorporates as much visual imagery as possible onto the picture plane. Together, however, they form a bombardment of information without any kind of visual relief.

The imagery is on such a monumental scale that it gives the impression that it is coming straight at the viewer and suggests a strong socio-economic commentary, implying that the work itself is a starting point for deeper reflection. “I wanted the space to be more important than the imagery,” James Rosenquist said. “I wanted to use images as tools.”

Rosenquist used generic imagery, no brand names, and created a new kind of picture. He described the effect: “People can remember their childhood, but events from four or five years ago are in a never-never land. That was the imagery I was concerned with—things that were a little bit familiar but not things you feel nostalgic about. Hot dogs and typewriters—generic things people sort of recognize.” Rosenquist reminds us to observe more intently and become more self-reflective, taking our time with the experience of looking.

As such, 1, 2, 3 Outside exemplifies Rosenquist’s contribution to Pop art: grand scale, fragmented composition that encompass an amalgamation of consumer imagery and evokes visual memory flashes of consciousness.

“WOW! – Work of the Week – Jesus Rafael Soto – Screenprints A, B, C & D from the Jai-Alai Series



Jesus Rafael Soto
Screenprints A, B, C & D from the Jai-Alai Series
1969
Screenprint on Perspex
24 1/4 x 19 1/2 in. each
Edition of 300
Signed and numbered, etched in perspex


Jésus Rafael Soto was a defining figure of both the Optical Art and Kinetic Sculpture movements. He was an acclaimed artist in his native Venezuela, having graduated from the Escuela de Bellas Artes y Artes Aplicadas in Caracas, and moved to Paris after the Second World War to undertake research in constructivist art. He participated in a groundbreaking exhibit at the Denise René Gallery in Paris called Le Mouvement. René’s guiding principle was that art must invent new paths in order to exist. And Soto’s art does just that.

He explored the phenomenological effects between two-dimensional and three-dimensional planes, fully engaging his viewers from every angle. He was a master at removing all subjectivity linked to personal taste, employing strictly geometric forms, squares, straight lines and primary colors, with a focus on the depiction of relationships between and movement of objects, rather than the objects themselves.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Soto’s Screenprints A, B, C & D from the Jai-Alai Series

The series takes its title from a sport in which the players and the ball remain in continuous motion, involving the ball to bounce off a walled space by accelerating it to high speeds with a hand-held device called a cesta. This continual movement transforms the relationship between space and time and are characteristics of the series that Soto explored in a conscious way. In naming the series Jai-Alai, the artist is allowing the viewer to understand his artistic research, by identifying the source. Just as in the process of observing the sport firsthand, each and every vantage point is equally as valid as it is important, and Soto has translated these distinct views into the artwork. The game does not occur from a single lens or fixed point of view, and neither does the art. It requires a process of moving through multiple states of time and space.

Working with flat lines of color and abstract geometric form, the artist stimulates optical effect through the manipulation of color theory and the dynamic between background and foreground, turing the viewer into a spectator from many different angles.

As one of the most intriguing artistic minds of his day, Jésus Rafael Soto’s quest for aesthetic representation of the immaterial, rejection of the figurative and use of traditional geometric form resulted in not only a career marked with ingenuity and success, but also of a wholly fresh and interactive experience for the viewer of his kinetic works.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Keith Haring – Fertility #2



Keith Haring
Fertility #2
1983
Silkscreen
42 x 50 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



Throughout his work, Keith Haring was never afraid to confront the socio-political challenges of his time. He was an outspoken and ardent activist against racism, homophobia, the apartheid in South Africa and AIDS.

Despite that Haring addressed difficult topics in his work, he always approached these subjects with high energy and optimism. He was heavily influenced by graffiti writers and street art in New York City, and created what would become his signature style, composed of the heavy use of line drawing, vivid colors, and simplified humanoid and geometric forms. These glyphs that could be read, like an urban, tribal language were accessible to all, and easy to take in by a wide audience.

“Art is something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Keith Haring’s Fertility #2.

Fertility #2 is the second work in the Fertility Suite of 5 works. Created in day-glow pigments, the piece is exceptionally bright, which conveys a warm and happy message, and evokes the New York club scene that Keith Haring was a part of.

It is a work that captures both the mysteries of ancient civilization with the representation of the pyramid, but also the imagination of extra-terrestrial civilizations through the flying saucers. The pyramid was a common theme in Haring’s work, simultaneously referring to antiquity and symbolizing eternity. It is also connected to the hieroglyphic language that Haring employs throughout his body of work, and the notion that images are a universal language. The UFO on the other hand represents a cosmic energy and suggests supernatural forces or people who were situated outside of social norms. They always symbolize positive energy and empowerment.

Lines and circles have a darker connotation in Haring’s work, they refer to the lesions of HIV and AIDS victims. These threats are surrounding a pregnant woman who is in distress, agitating her arms, trying to get attention.   

Combined, what does all this imagery stand for?

In the 1980’s there was a high prevalence of HIV infection among pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a terrible epidemic that devastated vast regions. The 1980’s were characterized by an insufficient response (both in the US and abroad) by government leaders in response to the AIDS epidemic. Ronald Reagan, the US president at the time, did not address the issue until over 21,000 Americans had already perished from the virus. Haring was a staunch activist and leader in promoting awareness about the virus and Fertility #2 is a centerpiece in his fight in relation to the transmission of the virus from mother to child, a particularly common problem in southern Africa.

The lesions, or dashes and circles have infected all the land in his depiction of the African landscape, and the pregnant mother is terrified for her unborn child. Keith Haring, loved the hope and innocence of children inspired. To him, they represented a better humanity: color-blind, unprejudiced and caring, uncorrupted by greed and hatred towards others. This work represents the saving of children and human kind from the evils of illness and inactive leadership.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Ed Rushca – Bliss Bucket



Ed Ruscha
Bliss Bucket
2010
Lithograph
28 3/4 x 28 in.
Edition of 50
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:
One of the most important postwar artists, Ed Ruscha came into prominence during the 1960s pop art movement. First recognized for his associations to graphic design and commercial art, Ruscha became admired for his mediations on word and image, where a word literally becomes an object.
Language has often invaded the visual arts during the past century, but no other artist uses it the way Ruscha does. His early paintings are not pictures of words but words treated as visual constructs. “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again,” he once said. “I see myself working with two things that don’t even ask to understand each other.”
This weeks WORK OF THE WEEK – WOW!!! is Bliss Bucket, a snowcapped mountain scene, bearing the words, with his self invented font.
Since the late 1990s the mountain has become one of Ruscha’s most consistent motifs. He produces classic mountains, taken either from images of the Himalayas or from his own imagination.
Ruscha has said, ‘It’s not a celebration of nature. I’m not trying to show beauty. The concept came to me as a logical extension of the landscapes that I’ve been painting for a while – horizontal landscapes, flatlands, the landscape I grew up in. Mountains like this were only ever a dream to me; they meant Canada or Colorado. I’m not really painting mountains, but an idea of mountains. picturing some kind of unobtainable bliss or glory … tall, dangerous, beautiful.”
He has used these epic backdrops to support a range of ambiguous or bland phrases such as this one here. The deliberately neutral typeface in this work has now become his trademark font, with squared off letters recalling those in the Hollywood sign. He describes it as ‘no-style’ or Boy Scout Utility Modern’
Actually, the words aren’t so much written on top of the depiction of the mountain as inscribed within the work, the crisp lettering clear, clean and as virgin as the snow itself. Each word has the momentous authority of an alp; they shout, as though to start an avalanche.
Ruscha would stumble upon these words, considering them to be his own version of Duchampian readymades. When the words began to invade his mountain paintings the result was boldly striking and beautifully absurd. The mountains receded to the background while statements such as BLISS BUCKET threw themselves at the front of the plane with big, look-at-me lettering making it impossible not to enjoy these clever combinations.
Inspired by the text based works of fellow Pop artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Ruscha pursued a lifelong artistic exploration into the formal elements of printed text and its fluid relationship to the visual image. By culling words, images and phrases that have been imprinted in his memory and that are found in mass media (print culture, advertising billboards, etc.), his work often serves as a visual encyclopedia of American culture. These symbols of consumer culture are as deeply rooted in the American vernacular as the mountains Ruscha paints.
His clever word associations pop off brightly colored canvases daring the viewer to react. For Ruscha words are also images, in that they provoke the imagination of the viewer.
Ruscha’a mounting paintings speak to how commercialism and consumerism are slowly encroaching on the natural world. This work is about before and after and the passage of time. The presence of commercialism and consumerism is unnatural and harsh, yet they accurately reflect the effect that our consumer driven culture has on the dwindling unspoiled natural world.
Mass media, billboards, and megastores are empires in their own right and have left an indelible imprint on our world. The unblemished views of these pristine monuments are slowly being encroached upon by sprawling suburban strip malls and colossal super stores. “The buildings violate the beauty of these mountains,” The abstraction with which he renders is classic Ruscha – he doesn’t give us too much but just enough to trigger our imaginations and associations. The subtlety of this rendering allows this painting to leave a far more substantial imprint on the viewer and make a much stronger statement on the condition of our world.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Shepard Fairey, Sedation Pill HPM



Shepard Fairey
Sedation Pill HPM
2013
HPM (hand-painted multiple), screenprint and mixed media collage on paper
40 x 30 in.
Edition of 10
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:
IT TAKES THE SEDATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK
It’s no secret, Shepard Fairey has always been open about controversial social and political topics, as evidenced in his artwork which promotes awareness of social issues. His aim in his work is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment.
This is exactly what this week’s Work Of the Week! WOW!, Sedation Pill HPM depicts. Shepard comments about this work, “The Sedation Pill print is inspired by the title of my favorite Public Enemy album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”. I think the biggest problem in America is the indifference and complacency about important issues that results from much of the population being perpetually hypnotized by conspicuous consumption, social media, entertainment, and self-medication. Using sedation and escapism for relief from the rat race might make us less aware (blissfully ignorant) but also less empowered to improve our role within the rat race… a vicious cycle of cause and effect.”
However, something very interesting about this work, that many may not notice until pointed out is the influence of another social and political activist artist.
Fairey’s Sedation Pill could have been crafted 50 years ago by famed Pop artist Robert Indiana.
Using words like Stay Alert and Eyes Open as imagery to effectively convey his message, and of course the title of the work “It takes the sedation of millions to hold us back”. Fairey, creatively taking a page from Indiana’s playbook, not only uses words, but also positions them along side of geometric forms and shapes, and effective fonts to emphasize not only the word but its connotations.
Indiana brilliantly understood that words would not be enough. He had to pair them with form, shape, color, and draw the viewer in by making the work visually optical, and kinetic. Shepard Fairey did all this with Sedation Pill.
If the influence of Robert Indiana is not obvious to the viewer just on the merits of the work itself, well then Fairey let us know by adding the number 5 at the top right and bottom left of the work.
In 1963, Indiana paintied “The Figure 5”, owned by the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C.

Shepard Fairey, Sedation Pill HPM (detail)
Robert Indiana, The Figure 5

“I had seen a large retrospective of Demuth’s work and was mightily impressed. So I got off on that subject. I used the Demuth painting as a theme and, not liking to do those kinds of things, I decided to make the painting an homage to Demuth because I’m very fond of his work. There were five paintings all related to that particular theme, and those words simply came from earlier works. Some of my first word paintings were, for instance, just “EAT” “DIE”. And “EAT” “DIE” of course stem from the fact that the last word that my mother said before she died was “Eat.” But it relates to other aspects of the American scene. To complement “EAT” “DIE”– one really couldn’t go on doing that forever – I thought of the supplementary idea of “HUG” “ERR.” “HUG” was a family word for giving affection and so forth, and so it began to suggest covering some of the more formal aspects of life — existence and love and survival and sin and what have you.” — Robert Indiana
Sedation Pill HPM is a Hand Painted Multiple. This means that the entire paper that the work is printed on is all made of collaged elements of newspaper, torn stenciled patterns on paper, that Fairey is so well known for. Once the collaged paper is created, the image is then silkscreened on top of the paper. The torn elements of paper create a raw or rough look, as if this work was pasted on a wall on top of other previous works that had been there and have a worn or weathered look. After the silkscreen is placed on top Fairey then goes back and hand paints on top of the silkscreen, and margins.