15-Story Mural of Johnny Cash by Shepard Fairey
The mural comes on the 50th Anniversary of Johnny Cash’s iconic live album At Folsom Prison.
A third mural from American Civics, the first-ever collaboration between acclaimed contemporary artist Shepard Fairey and the estate of legendary photographer Jim Marshall, can now be seen in California’s State Capitol. 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 a 15-story mural – his largest in California – interpreted from Marshall’s legendary 1968 photo of Cash at the site of his famed performance.
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.
Watch Shepard Fairey and his team create the mural:
The image was created with the estate of iconic 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.
The Johnny Cash mural joins two other large murals from the American Civics series that have been painted by Fairey: The image of Fannie Lee Chaney in the “Voting Rights” piece can be seen in San Francisco’s Mission District and the image of Cesar Chavez in the “Workers Rights” piece can be seen in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.
The five-piece portfolio of prints comprising American Civics can be seen in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and in its permanent residency at the California State Library.
A gallery of Jim Marshall’s original photos of Johnny Cash is on display outside of the Governor’s Office at the California State Capital. These photos are from Jim 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. As Amelia Davis, owner of Jim Marshall Photography LLC, comments, “This book is a testament to the trust and friendship Johnny Cash and Jim Marshall shared.”
“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.”
Johnny Cash had first expressed interest in performing at Folsom Prison following the release of his hit “Folsom Prison Blues” in 1955. The idea was put on hold until 1968, when he appeared at the maximum-security prison to record his groundbreaking album At Folsom Prison. At his side for the show, and for the subsequent performance Cash played at San Quentin a year later, was Jim Marshall.
“Jim Marshall and Johnny Cash’s friendship goes back some time before the Folsom Prison and San Quentin performances,” says Kabrich. “When Johnny decided to play at Folsom, he reached out to Jim and said, ‘I’m going to need a photographer. Will you join me?’ Jim was the only professional photographer brought in because he came with Johnny and June Carter Cash. Because of his friendship with Johnny, Jim had full access to the entire stage area, backstage, outside – you name it. He was basically part of Johnny’s posse.”
American Civics is a Fine Art Limited Edition series of five serigraphs. Each title is limited to an edition of 100 prints, and each is hand signed and numbered by Shepard Fairey and stamped by Jim Marshall Photography LLC. A portion of proceeds made from the Johnny Cash print will go toward #Cut50, an organization dedicated to garnering bipartisan support for prison reform.