Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Obama art stirs conspiracy theories
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama has one of the hottest and most controversial posters on the campaign trail.
The red, black and blue block-print-style posters designed by Los Angeles artist Shepard Fairey have become an overnight collectors' item. Dealers have been selling them for $249 apiece on eBay before voters have even decided if the Illinois senator has captured the Democratic nomination in the race to the White House.
Support him or not, pundits have been hanging on Obama’s every word as he headed this week into the Pennsylvania primary, pitted against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. And some critics have taken on the Obama posters, saying they resembled a Socialist propaganda tool to promote a cult-like revolutionary. Bloggers also claimed the portrait looked similar to those that were created decades ago of Stalin and Lenin, whose faces were bathed in white light as their eyes looked heavenward. Maybe it's the blood-red ink coating the left side of Obama's face in the posters that has been causing some people to consider hiding under their desks, as if they were part of a bombing scare during the Cold War.
Fairey’s previous works have appealed to the skateboarding graffiti culture, and also been admired by the likes of Hollywood. He created the poster for the film, “Walk the Line,” about the life of Johnny Cash after having gained attention for his André the Giant stickers that had some odd ties to Heidegger’s philosophical study of being.
Fairey apparently was inspired to create the Obama posters because the senator opposed the war in Iraq. His first 350 screenprints sold out, and the offsets were being distributed “by the Obama camp as an awareness campaign,” the artist stated on his Web site. Maybe it’s more about art repeating itself than some freaky conspiracy theory that Obama is a Communist, or an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist, who wanted to turn America into a dictatorship.
It’s no secret that artists have done controversial things to get noticed. The Obama poster resembled the style of Andy Warhol, who angered many Americans by immortalizing Mao in silk-screen. Warhol was drawn to bohemians like Jean-Michel Basquiat, the father of graffiti art. Chalk it up, maybe, to Fairey's fascination with phenomenology.
(CAPTION: Carolyn Sterns of Sistersville, W.Va., works in the Obama campaign office in Washington, Pa., oblivious to the controversy involving the poster over her left shoulder.)