Shepard Fairey Paints Neil Young’s New Songs

The admiration between Shepard Fairey and Neil Young goes both ways. Mr. Fairey, a longtime fan of the musician, included him in “May Day,” his 2010 show at Deitch Projects portraying cultural heroes of the left. Then Mr. Young, who stages an annual benefit concert for the Bridge School in Northern California, asked Mr. Fairey to create art for an album marking the concert’s 25th anniversary. So the artist wasn’t exactly surprised, he said at the opening of his new show at Pace Prints, when Mr. Young asked him to make a painting representing each song in his new album with Crazy Horse, “Americana.”

What Mr. Fairey didn’t expect was the intensity of Mr. Young’s involvement. For all the tracks, the artist submitted several digital mockups inspired by the narrative (none based on an identifiable original source, he emphasized). Then Mr. Young picked his favorites. Mr. Fairey said he was also surprised to learn that “God Save the Queen” is not just a Sex Pistols song but an old British anthem and the source of the melody for “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” His finished painting depicts the Queen and Betsy Ross sewing a combination of British and American flags; its text reads “God save the land of liberty”— a phrase with both a dual origin and a double meaning. “Neil and I talked about that,” Mr. Fairey said. “They left England, and basically made the same mistakes. In some respect it all blends together.”

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