CAN & DID - Graphics, Art, and Photography from the Obama Campaign
January 20 – February 28, 2009
Opening on the Inauguration Day of our 44th President, "CAN & DID - Graphics, Art, and Photography from the Obama Campaign" looks at numerous and varied examples of the inspired visual work that appeared during the 2008 presidential election.
From the original Barack Obama "O" mark – a campaign identity designed by Sol Sender, Andy Keene, and Amanda Gentry, to the photojournalistic work of Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Turnley (subsequently used as source material by the artist Shepard Fairey) the visuals connected to the Obama campaign seemed on a higher level than the political norm. Clearly the candidate and his message motivated artists and designers to do inspired work.
Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign, well known for its fundraising prowess, was an active agent in the commissioning and disseminating of work. They had their own internal design team which reported directly to David Axelrod and David Plouffe – the two top Obama advisors. They reached out to artists and designers through an "Artists for Obama" initiative which sought to raise money and awareness through the sale of editioned prints by such industry leaders as Robert Indiana and Shepard Fairey,
Lance Wyman, the legendary graphic designer best known for his iconic 1968 Mexico Olympics poster, was approached out of the blue by the campaign. Shepard Fairey, whose HOPE poster was perhaps the defining image of the campaign, was initially connected to the Obama team by Yosi Sargent ,a 32 year old Los Angeles media consultant working for the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of Fairey's posters and the iterations put out by the various local offices were eventually printed.
Additionally, there was an unprecedented outpouring of independent posters created in support of Obama, many of them aggregated on websites like DesignforObama.org.
where they could be freely printed out. While some have branded this work as propagandistic. it does not seem fair to use that term to belittle it. As Sol Sender put it in an interview with Steven Heller, the co-chairman of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Art, "The design development was singularly inspired by the candidate's message."
That the work was singularly effective is an assertion backed up by the fact that every piece released by the official Artists for Obama program quickly sold out. (Much of the work in this show comes from the artists' own limited proofs.) But both the breadth of work created for Obama and the demand seem a heartening rather than a cynical response to today's political reality and the truly historic event of Obama's election.
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The show includes work (which can be viewed at danzigerprojects.com) by:
Sol Sender, Andy Keene, and Amanda Gentry
& work from the Design for Obama website