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What the streets and digital art are saying about US election

Nov 5th, 2012 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Latest News, News

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ART IS not usually the first thing that comes to mind when politics is mentioned, but it’s a big deal in the US presidential election.

Artwork that is making statements on the 2012 election is definitely out there, but it seems the use of it in this election has changed from last election.

“The mood has shifted from spreading hope to avoiding despair. The art is anti-Romney much more than it is pro-Obama, and there is less of it,” says an online article.

Using art as a way to capture people visually can be a powerful tool, both in campaigning or speaking out with images on issues that will affect communities, from a personal perspective, the story says.

Whether the pictures are giving a voice to funding cuts for art, or are being sold to fuel the campaigns of the candidates in the running, art has a voice and plays a big part.

Visual images carrying a positive message can have a huge impact on people, and rallying peoples support.

As was seen in the last election with the iconic [unofficial] campaign image of Obama known as “hope”, by street artist Shepard Fairey.

Although he was not commissioned by Obama for the art work during the 2008 election, the Obama campaign later sold prints of the poster on its Web site.

Burdett Loomis, University of Kansas political science professor, and curator of a current exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art – called Politics as Symbol/Symbol as Politics -  recently shared his thoughts in an interview about the influence of political art on the current elections.

“What strikes me is that so much of it is viewed on your phone or on your computer and that things go viral.

“A lot of the art is unplanned. So far, I don’t think there’s anything as iconic as the Obama painting of 2008.”

One artist who has been embracing the use of digital forms of art this election is General Howe.

His street art, left, has often had political elements, and now he is exploring this in new ways.

“This work has strong roots in street art but is completely digitally based,” he says.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about making accessible work and communicating a message to the masses and as much as street art does that and I think there is unexplored territory in how much of people’s lives exist in the digital world.”

The artist has created The Supers, who are some of the well-known faces in these elections made into Superhero characters – Obama as Batman, Romney as Bane – a supervillan who has appeared in comics alongside Batman, Michelle Obama as Cat Woman.

He has changed news articles to portray it is as if both Batman and Bane are running campaigns in this election.

“Presidential elections and summer blockbuster movies have become the same thing,” says General Howe.

“There is an epic battle of good vs evil and the fate of the world is up for grabs. If we pay a little extra for the larger soda, the experience will be that much better.”

Adding a bit more light-hearted humour to the elections, is another image that has gone viral on the web.

The Gum election “who sucks the most”, right, is a street art project by Stefan Haverkamp and James Cooper.

People on the street are given a chance to give their vote by sticking used chewing gum on the faces of the candidates.

Using creativity as an innovative protest to Mitt Romney’s promise to cut arts funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, Los Angeles street artist, Saber, took to the Manhattan skyline.

With donations and a small plane, he used the sky to his advantage to write the message “Defend the Arts” across it.

Another piece that stands out is a large scale portrait of Obama, by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada.

He was a leader in starting a global street art movement known as “culture jamming.”

The portrait, expectation, was part of the artist’s terrestrial series, and was made with 605 metric tons of sand and gravel on a Barcelona beachfront, left.

The artist compared the experience of making the piece as “creating a giant Mandala to pray for change but alluding to how all the hope could fade away like sand”.

Although the portrait was created around the time of the last election, the message conveyed through it is still significant today.

Events such as the 2012 US elections are the perfect chance for companies to find new ways to market their products in a visual way, as well.

Cheetos have done this by commissioning artist Jason Baalman to create two portraits from more than 4000 Cheetos [a cheese flavoured snack made from corn] of the Presidential candidates, below.

An article made this comment on the artwork:

“We enjoy when artists use all-American junk foods to depict our presidential candidates, because it embodies everything cheap and gross about how our culture intersects with the election process and everything fun and absurd about it in one image.”

Artists have also been pledging their support by selling their pieces to raise money for the campaigns of the running candidates.

In support of Obama, 19 artists – including Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Serra – are offering prints in a portfolio, selling for $28,000.

Sales of all 150 would bring more than $4 million to the campaign.

Chuck Close is also offering 10 large-scale tapestry portraits of the President for $100,000 a piece to benefit his campaign.

A few other interesting art projects to view are:

Power” -CNN commissioned artists to illustrate the theme of power ahead of the 2012 election.

Visions of our 44th President, Barak Obama: A collective sculptural show by Forty-four Contemporary African American Artists celebrating the historical significance of the first African American President, Barak Obama.

Images:

Top: Obama, IMAGE: Shepard Fairy- photo by Kellyp23 on flickr

Hope, IMAGE: Shepard Fairy

The Supers, IMAGE: General Howe. Updated for 2012, these new pieces from “The Supers” were on display at the Crest Hardware Art Show this June by General Howe. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Gum election, IMAGE: Stefan Haverkamp and James Cooper

EXPECTATION, IMAGE: Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada.

Cheeto Portraits, IMAGE: Jason Baalman

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