Shepard Fairey: War By Numbers

Addicted Art Gallery
2 min readMay 29, 2022
War By Numbers, New York, 2010 [Image Source: Arrested Motion]

In 2007, Shepard Fairey released “War By Numbers”. It was his reaction to the thought of being a part of a society that cultivates the justification of killing foreign innocent children, and people for that matter, to protect the American idea of freedom and democracy.

War By Numbers (Red), 2007

In the words of the artist…

“Tactics to create a climate of fear are nothing new. LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969] escalated U.S. military presence in Vietnam as soon as he took office. The irony is that as we worry about outside threats to our kids, we are creating a culture where it is fine to bomb kids from other countries like Vietnam or Iraq. The Iraqi civilian body count due to U.S. forces is between 56 and 62 thousand. No wonder there isn’t a lot of popular support in Iraq for the American versions of freedom and democracy. I feel just as bad for our troops who are being killed. Now we are mired in a civil war that is terrible for us and them. Try to keep in perspective that for every media image of a disabled U.S. veteran of the war in Iraq, there are 20 Iraqis who are in a similar or worse situation.” [Source: Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant, 2007]

Earlier this month (May), Shepard Fairey, in collaboration with Ernesto Yerena Montejano, released a new variant of “War By Numbers” as a reminder that the quest for peace requires perpetual vigilance, and the current invasion of Ukraine is a reminder of the brutality of war. The image is a reminder not to become desensitised by war to the extent that it becomes as banal as a paint-by-numbers painting.

War By Numbers (Gold), 2007

“Question everything.” ~ Shepard Fairey

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