In 2003, Fairey dissected the graphic design of instruments of wealth and power such as currency, stamps, and stock certificates, resulting in a series of works about the intersection of economic wealth and political power. The minting of new currency featuring the portrait of the leader is an act characteristic of totalitarian regime. The numbered portraits of the infamous leaders 1) Lenin, 2) Mao, and 3) Nixon are surrounded by design elements commonly used for such documents, including ornate patterns and intricate motifs incorporated to confound counterfeiters. The artist inserts his own imagery including the Obey Star Icon and the word "Obey" into the composition. "In lesser gods we trust," is a recurring phrase used by the artist. It is an alteration of "In God we trust" phrase used by the artist. It is an alteration of "In God we trust" found on the back of all US currency, signaling the contradicting term given that the separation of church and state is a founding principle of the constitution. Fairey's use of the term refers to the process of deification of powerful leaders and the corresponding betrayal of public trust through corruption and abuse of power.
The combination of the foreign leaders and a US President is intended to remind the viewer that we must not only look outside our nation for those who abuse powers but must be vigilant in our own country as well. Although these works were made during the Bush administration, in the current tumultuous political climate of the Trump administration, the message is more important than ever. The portraits are a cautionary reminder, urging the public to question authority and be properly informed. Reminding us that truth and power cannot be reconciled. Those who want to control society will inevitably create fictitious narratives to do so.
– Description written by co-curator Pedro Alonzo.?
Lesser Gods Lenin, Lesser Gods Mao, and Lesser Gods Nixon SOLD AS A MATCHING NUMBERED SET for $2,000. Remaining inventory sold individually at $900 each. Serigraph on Coventry Rag, 100% Cotton Custom Archival Paper with hand-deckled edges. 30 x 41 inches. Signed by Shepard Fairey. Numbered edition of 89. Comes with a certificate of authenticity.