Philip Kennicott Offers a Closer Look at Shepard Faireys Obama


Now that the inauguration is right around the corner and the National Portrait Gallery is scrambling to get Shepard Fairey‘s iconic Barack Obama image up on their walls in a prominent spot, it’s nice to take a breather from it all and look at the creation itself (Fairey’s work, not the creation of Obama himself). Fortunately, the Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott offers up one of the best pieces of writing about Fairey’s poster we’ve yet read (thanks to Kristen Richards for the tip). He covers all the bases from the campaign’s clever branding control to, what we enjoyed most, calling out Fairey a little for not creating any new form of design, but instead praises him for being clever about his repurposing of the old. It’s also an interesting look at the design of Obama in full as something of a look at where we’re at now in our visual politicking and well worth your time. Here’s a bit:

The power of precedent isn’t easily dismissed, however, and the new norm in Obama imagery suggests a dividing line that might sort out the Obama fanatics from the Obama skeptics, Obama cynics and the Obama wait-and-see crowd. Perhaps because the fundamentals of this graphic style emerged at a time when the United States was struggling not to go down the paths of fascism or communism, it makes an older generation nervous. Political branding is a staple of political life. But this branding, so brilliant, so airtight, seems strangely indifferent to the iconic precedents of authoritarian propaganda, its origins in forms such as Soviet poster art from the 1920s, that Americans have resisted like the early Romans resisted kings.

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