A 15-story Johnny Cash mural from American Civics, the first-ever collaboration between contemporary artist Shepard Fairey and the estate of legendary photographer Jim Marshall, can now be seen in downtown Sacramento. For the 50th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s iconic live album At Folsom Prison and as part of Sacramento’s Wide Open Walls festival, Fairey painted the mural – his largest in California – interpreted from Marshall’s legendary 1968 photo of Cash at the site of his famed performance.
The mural, the third in a series, was painted on the Downtown Sacramento Residence Inn by Marriott with Cash’s gaze facing toward Folsom Prison. Fairey, who shares Cash’s passion for prison reform, hopes it will help ignite conversation around mass incarceration reform.
The image was created with the estate of photographer Jim Marshall as part of the art series American Civics which debuted at San Francisco Art Exchange in 2016. In it, Fairey interprets Marshall’s iconic photography from the 1960’s, including images of Johnny Cash, Cesar Chavez, and Fannie Lee Chaney, with five new pieces that vividly depict the humanity behind each of these enduring social justice issues: Voting Rights, Mass Incarceration, Workers’ Rights, Gun Culture, and Two Americas.
“Johnny Cash’s universal appeal is in part because of the empathy and his sensitivity to the human condition that came across in his persona as well as his music,” says Theron Kabrich, co-owner and creative director of San Francisco Art Exchange, the Geary Street gallery where American Civics made its debut. “As a social justice warrior, Cash fought for justice with his weapon of choice: his music. Shepard Fairey is also a social justice warrior. His weapon of choice is his iconic public art. Shepard, I am convinced, is to his generation what Norman Rockwell was to his own, perhaps what Andy Warhol was to his.”
A gallery of Jim Marshall’s original photos of Cash is on display outside of the Governor’s Office at the California State Capital. The photos are from Marshall’s latest photographic book, Johnny Cash at Folsom & San Quentin: Photographs By Jim Marshall. Carefully curated with full access to the Jim Marshall Archive, this oversized volume offers the definitive view of Johnny Cash’s prison concerts at California’s Folsom and San Quentin Prisons in 1968 and 1969.
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