Even though Obama’s popularity has been sliding significantly, Shepard Fairey, designer of the viral blue-and-red Manifest Hope poster, thinks it’s the perfect time to release a slick and comprehensive anthology of celebratory Obama-related artworks: Art for Obama, which he co-edited with Evolutionary Media Group founder Jennifer Gross, comes out October 2. In addition to getting a look at the imagery, we spoke with Fairey about Obama’s approval ratings, how political art reaches beyond politics, and his thoughts on the artistic deification of our leader.
Tell us about the idea behind Art for Obama.
People undervalue the potential impact of art: It’s different from what a slogan or a normal political logo can do. It has more of a depth, more of a connection. Even someone who doesn’t dig Obama might be able to find some value in the art itself. For example, I’m inspired by historical art from the Soviet Union in the late teens through the early twenties — I don’t identify with the politics, but the aesthetic is incredibly powerful. The inspiration from these works could apply to any number of new things, to other political issues.
How did you choose the works for this book? There’s a lot of Obama art out there.
We were looking for works being presented as artwork, not just augmentation for the campaign. The other question was: Is it good art? Many had clever messages that were rendered very poorly, so we excluded them. Not all of the works are my personal taste, but it was really important to include the range of artistic diversity there.
Obama’s approval ratings are much lower than they were months ago. Is this really the right time for this book?
Obama’s drop in popularity is symptomatic of a psychological flaw in the American populace in general: the tendency to blame whoever’s at the control, whether the situation they’re in control of was created or was inherited by them. So this is the best time to release it — not in terms of sales, but rather this idea of art being a component of grassroots action, art being inspiring to people. It’s a really good thing for people to be reminded of, no matter how popular Obama is.