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A poster is worth a thousand blogs

Two weeks after the foofarah (I can now cross that word off my “to use” list) stirred by The New Yorker’s Barack Obama cover, bloggers are now blogoplectic over a poster advertising Obama’s speech tonight in Berlin. One conservative gasket-blower has compared it to a poster of Adolph Hitler, though a blogger at Mother Jones […]

Two weeks after the foofarah (I can now cross that word off my “to use” list) stirred by The New Yorker’s Barack Obama cover, bloggers are now blogoplectic over a poster advertising Obama’s speech tonight in Berlin. One conservative gasket-blower has compared it to a poster of Adolph Hitler, though a blogger at Mother Jones is doing his part to balance the hyperbole, saying the poster “may be the finest piece of contemporary mainstream political art I’ve ever seen.” Read into it what you will — and many are reading into it — at least the Obama poster, unlike this one for John McCain, doesn’t communicate he’s a candidate to become God.

Progressive political candidates should reach out more to the deep pool of world-class artists already down, at least in spirit, with the cause. It would probably take one phone call to get Eddie Vedder to write an entire album of tunes implicitly, if not explicitly, pointing the way to Obama. One artist didn’t wait for the phone to ring. Celebrated street artist Shepard Fairey, known chiefly for his Obey Giant guerilla public plastering efforts, approached the Obama campaign earlier this year about “appealing to a younger, apathetic audience” through a new series of posters. Fairey got the go-ahead. Here’s a point-by-point detail about what he went for in his design.

Still, as with the Berlin poster, some saw something more insidious. Meghan Daum of the Los Angeles Times opined: “There’s an unequivocal sense of idol worship about the image, a half-artsy, half-creepy genuflection that suggests the subject is (a) a Third World dictator whose rule is enmeshed in a seductive cult of personality; (b) a controversial American figure who’s been assassinated; or (c) one of those people from a Warhol silkscreen that you don’t recognize but assume to be important in an abstruse way.”

For his part, Obama seemed pleased. In a personal letter to Fairey, Obama wrote: “I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can help change the status quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign.

  • Why is it just progressive candidates that should reach out? I don’t think there’s anything inherently liberal or conservative about good design, especially if it helps sell a candidate.

    The McCain poster is a little over the top, but for the overuse of texturing, borders, and too many colors, not the god-head of the Senator. But it does reach for his core audience and the protect america values he’s promoting in his campaign, and does it with some of the better design than I’ve seen from his campaign so far.

  • Matt Peiken says:

    Sure, Republicans can and should, as well, but if their pool of sympathetic creative talent begins with Dennis Miller and ends at Toby Keith, I’ll take an assumptive leap and suggest the Dems hold a colossal resource advantage here.

  • Roger Stradley says:

    The very idea that this young man might be our next Commander In Chief doesn’t just scare the heck out of you? This isn’t some game, this is the big leagues, this is a guy who sat in a church for 20 years and never heard anything.

  • Matt Peiken says:

    Roger — you’d prefer a president who believes he has been anointed by God?

  • Roger Stradley says:

    Matt, no, as a retired soldier and father of a Marine, I want a President who understands that sometimes you have to stand up to the bullies that terrorize the innocent. I fully understand the debate on “should we be there” it doesnt matter, we are there so now the debate should be “how do we leave it better than we found it?”, we did in Japan, Germany, Korea and Italy. We have been in some of those places for over 50 years, (I served in several) and oddly people there respect us and consider us friends.

    Anyway, just my two cents, I could be wrong.

    Roger