Click “play” above to listen to CapRadio’s interview with Shepard Fairey upon completion of his “Johnny Cash” mural in Sacramento.
Internationally renowned artist Shepard Fairey’s new 15-story mural is stopping passersby and overtaking social media feeds.
The artwork — his third-largest mural ever and biggest in California — is “by far the most technically ambitious,” Fairey said during a recent interview with CapRadio.
The new piece features Johnny Cash, shown standing in front of Folsom Prison in 1968, and is based on a photograph by Jim Marshall. Fairey designed the image in 2016 as part of his “American Civics Project” series, and the mural was completed between August 9 and 20 as part of the second-annual Wide Open Walls festival, where more than 40 artists converged on the city to paint dozens of murals.
“A lot of people are intimidated by galleries and museums, but art on the street, they feel like that’s a level playing field for engagement and I love that,” Fairey said of the festival.
The new mural went up on the eastern-facing wall of the Residence Inn hotel in Midtown is best viewed from the intersection of L and 16th streets.
Perhaps best known for the “Hope” poster that he designed for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Fairey says he chose this city for the mural not only because Sacramento is the capital and in close proximity to Folsom Prison, but also because “there needs to be a conversation around incarceration reform.” He hopes the artwork will prompt discussion of mass incarceration and the for-profit prison industry in America.
The design and installation process was extremely labor-intensive, Fairey explained. “It took me almost 1,200 sheets of three-by-four paper, which are then lightly spray mounted to the wall, in a grid, row-by-row,” he said. “My crew of four assistants and I cut the stencil directly on the wall, spray painted, and then removed the paper.”
But he is excited by the city’s enthusiastic response to the piece. “It’s nice to come to a place where people are grateful for the public art,” Fairey said.