Everyone’s seen the Barack Obama screen prints by Shepard Fairey, right? The ones that were enthusiastically waved by supporters at the DNC; the ones that were on the back cover of Wide-Eyed, and included in several other publications, for four months; the ones by the same artist of the Obey Giant fame?
Well there’s a new wave of them being slapped up across the L.A. Eastside (maybe the Westside too, haven’t been out that way in awhile) with a different spin on them. Instead of the Gazing-Into-The-Sunset-Obama being complimented with the words Hope, Change or Progress, the new posters simply say Obey. As in: Obey Obama or be destroyed. They’ve got the Orwellian Big Brother feel common in much of Fairey’s work.
Who is responsible? Last I checked Fairey was still all aboard the Obama Train. He shows off an Obama autographed thank you note on his webpage along with a glowing appraisal of the candidate. And according to the LA Weekly, Fairey has distributed 250,000 of his prints thus far and was arrested in Denver trying to plaster up a 10 x14 ft. HOPE poster. Doesn’t sound like he’d have much motivation to derail his own successful grassroots branding campaign. One thing is for sure, if it’s not Fairey, there is a pretty talented imposter at hand. The prints look identical to his.
What remains of the prints that is. Although I’ve come across perhaps fifteen of the Obey Obama prints I’ve yet to see one in better than fair condition, even though they appear to have been put up recently. All the prints have been torn or mangled. There’s been an attempt to remove everyone I’ve seen. Which is a difficult task to do, if I may say so my self. The industrial strength glue (or whatever is being used) makes it extremely difficult to remove a poster in one piece. It makes me wonder if there is an organized effort to remove the imposter prints.
What could the motivation be? Could it be McCain’s street team is waging a turf war with Obama’s? Fun to daydream about, but unlikely. My opinion is that Obama’s recent shift to the center – to broaden his appeal for the general election – has angered someone. At one point in time he was coming off as very anti-war, he’s backed down from that position since winning the primaries. Obama may also be victim of a bit of a backlash. He’ was introduced to us as someone above politics. As he comes down to earth there is bound to be resentment. A politician is a politician is a politician. Maybe another street artist is trying to remind us of this.
Either way it will be interesting to see what happens. Whether the Obey Obama prints catch any of the same momentum that Fairey’s have seems to be a long shot. It all depends on whether there’s an audience for them. Another question is whether the prints will affect the potency of Fairey’s brand. Duplicates and rip-offs have a way of weakening, or endangering, a strong brand. And there is certainly potential for escalation as the election looms. We here at jungle  will keep our eyes to the street in the meantime