Thursday, September 3, 2009

Made in Obama's Image

In my previous posts on Obama art, I have drawn attention to the blend of religion and politics that the artists express, the religion centering on the political figure himself.

Michael J. Lewis makes the same connection in his essay, "The Art of Obama Worship" in Commentary (September 2009).

What is striking about these paintings is not their quality, about which the less said the better, but their consistent tone. They belong to that class of objects known as “devotional art.” Such objects are not only intended as votive offerings, to serve as the focus of veneration; the actual process of making them is itself an act of piety, a consideration that all but places them outside the realm of aesthetic judgment.

Lewis takes us through a recent history of the intersection of art with politics, from the Vietnam War through the art wars of the 1980s to Bush Baiting most recently. He then discusses Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and Shawn Barber, but dwells at length on the Fairey's career and the powerful effect of his Hope poster, recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.

He concludes, saying, "...there is something unsettling about images that offer little more political commentary than an uncomplicated adulation that borders on power worship. By showing the subjects removed from all political context, and in a beatific reverie, such art produces images that are aesthetically indistinguishable from the “dear leader” effigies that delighted the dictators of the 1930s or of our own day."

Harold adds:

Great posts David; this is a hugely important and amazing development to watch unfold, with its undeniable connection with fascist and totalitarian propoganda techinques. The hard left has always leaned that way--they admire everything they know about Lenin, Stalin, Che, Castro, Chavez...all of whom knew (know) and exploit(ed) the power of iconic images in their propoganda.

Bill Whittle at PJTV has this video piece suggesting conservatives had better get with the program in understanding the importance of images...recall that Socrates said political philosophy has need of images, and in fact that he himself was "greedy" for images.

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