Photo: Street Art and Politics – Art in Response to the 2012 Election
Street art enjoyed mainstream limelight in 2008, when Shepherd Fairey created a graphic image of President Obama’s face. Since then, most street artists have lost faith in their political muse, choosing to abstain from the political process or to outright reject it. Below is a selection of some of the most effective and provocative sprayed-portrayals of the presidential candidates.
Where 2008 candidate Obama accepted a windfall outpouring of support from optimistic street art artists, 2012 candidate Obama has had to settle for uninspired advertising ever since his artistic base left him. Hope seems to have been replaced with apathy.
As you can see, the artist accentuates Obama’s wrinkles to make his nose look scrunched when he smiles, implying that Obama contrives the smile as part of some political calculations. Likewise, the artist symbolizes greed and corruption with Obama’s ravenous, bared teeth.
Romney fares no better, as recent political street art vilifies him along with Obama.
Blank Administration, the artist collective responsible for these wheat pastes, attacks both candidates for their common weaknesses, clearly taking a swing at the pervasive influence of money in politics. In stark contrast to the cheerful moods in 2008, Obama, along with Romney, is depicted as a prospering crony under the auspices of Wall Street. A closer look shows that the text all over each of the politician’s clothing is taken from news clips reproaching the respective candidate for yielding to corporate interests.
Like the last piece, this wanted poster prosecutes both candidates for their alleged immorality. The political message actually applies only to Obama though. The paragraph closest to the bottom of the poster accuses “the above suspects” for murdering “a U.S. citizen without due process…on september 30 2011,” of course, only the administration in power during 2011 could be held accountable. The accusation refers to a drone attack sanctioned by the Oval Office on a U.S. citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, which killed the target along with four companions, including his brother, also a U.S. citizen. Scholars debate the legality of the attack, asking whether Awlaki was either a U.S. citizen entitled to his constitutional rights of due proces or an enemy combatant in a war against the U.S.
These images show aversion to both of the candidates and demonstrate an overall disenchantment with the U.S. political system. The blissful hope that characterized Obama’s campaign in 2008 has all but disappeared, giving way to a cynic rejection of politics all together. With Fairey’s massive contribution in 2008 to Obama’s public representation, the street art community appeared to be sailing forward on the ship of American politics, the same ship that they now abandon after seeing the many holes slowly sinking it.