August 7, 2008

Obama as Art

Fascinating stuff from The Stranger, an alternative newspaper out of Seattle.

The Nervous, Worshiping Iconography of Candidate Obama
Barack Obama is visual culture's number-one subject right now. Combining fine art, street art, and folk art— YouTube seems as good a folk medium as any—the output is unprecedented: There has never been this much art made about a presidential candidate.

One artist has set up a website called Obama Art Report to track it. A Flickr set of Obama street art has 479 items and counting, including political cartoons, stencils, and stickers galore; a watch with Obama in the role of Rosie the Riveter; a portrait of the worldly candidate made entirely of world maps; photographs of Obama images printed large and laid in a grid on a public lawn like the AIDS quilt; and layered prints reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg's 1960s-era mashups. At Comic-Con in San Diego recently, comic-book artist Alex Ross unveiled his Superman Obama print, which looks just like a velvet painting. Barry Blitt tried out a limp Obama satire on the July 21 New Yorker cover, featuring Barack and Michelle Obama dressed as terrorists, doing the infamous fist bump. It quickly became a meme, generating dozens of knockoffs, like Obama's charismatic dances on Ellen, or his behind-the-back basketball dribble, which was the climax of last week's YouTube mashup featuring the new Ludacris song "Obama Is Here."

More at the link above.

By the way, I live in the Boston area but had not seen the Obama Lincoln poster/picture any where until now! (bold emphasis mine)

Ron English's recent Abraham Obama, a merging of Obama's and Lincoln's faces that sold out online as a limited-edition print for $200 on (Fine-art auction house Bonhams will sell one of the prints in the fall, with a presale estimate of $2,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

Upper Playground is a streetwear retailer in San Francisco that has a gallery; the gallery has commissioned several Obama prints, and English made this one in June not by digitally superimposing the two men's faces but by overlaying them freehand in paint. For a recent gallery opening in Boston, English created a 100-foot Abraham Obama mural and the gallery handed out copies of the image for free. Before long, the city was so covered with it—it had been plastered everywhere, including on homes—that the gallery put out a statement asking Obama supporters to stop.
Clearly, I need to get out more. (I knew that already!)

The article also refers to a similar composite picture that Nancy Burson made in 1983, which morphed (in a pre-photoshop age) the faces
Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao and Khomeini for the ultimate face of 'Big Brother.' You can see it here.

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