Post-election, I was hoping that this poster would go away and I could keep my carping to myself (and my long-suffering special lady). But lately, Shepard Fairey’s been all over the place, and while I think it’s great that we’re inviting graphic designers into the larger conversation, the downside is that the poster’s back again and so here goes.
I don’t hate it. It’s fine. But there are two major problems that just keep nagging.
The first is simple craftsmanship: it’s just not been drawn. It is more a demonstration of the limits of Adobe Illustrator Live Trace than it is an illustration. The shapes around the mouth, especially, are just horribly weak. It becomes a clip-art version of a WPA poster. Someone versed in anatomy would know how the philtrum is constructed and how the lips curve over each other and would (even if he was tracing it for a photographic likeness) be able to finesse the lines to push the perspective and the reinforce the overall strength of the image. This is what illustrators do that computers can’t (among other things).
Just look at the uneven lips, the shapeless shapes around the mouth, the incorrect perspective. It’s kind of exasperating if you get into it. Don’t even get me started on the nose (just look at the comparison! Ugh).
The second is more the fascist style of it. I’m not sure if it was intentional or subliminal, but it’s definitely there. It seems like, after the past eight horrid years, and with a great candidate to get behind, all of us Obama supporters couldn’t wait to shove some of our own fascist imagery down the throats of the other guys. I don’t think that a poster image of fascism is as bad as the more real-life shades of totalitarianism embraced by the neoconservatives of the past two terms. But still. I didn’t like the toothless fascism (they call it “school spirit”) of high school rivalries, or the subtler but slightly less toothless fascism of patriotic displays, and I don’t like fascism here, even though it’s my side that’s doing it.
Also: I am an Obama supporter. And I don’t know much about Fairey’s work, except that I did like the Andre the Giant stuff. But this thing – okay, maybe I do kind of hate it.