In late 2007, a presidential hopeful from Illinois acquired some serious street cred.
Seemingly overnight, posters of the senator materialised in cities across the US. His face was rendered in red, white and blue, looking confidently beyond the confines of the picture to an imagined future. In its most widely distributed form, the image featured a single word in a no-nonsense typeface: “HOPE”.
The Obama “Hope” poster not only become synonymous with Barack Obama’s ultimately successful presidential campaign, it captured the mood of an era. A version has been acquired by The Smithsonian; The New Yorker described the art work as “the most efficacious American political illustration since ‘Uncle Sam Wants You’.”
Shepard Fairey, the 47-year-old Los Angeles-based artist behind “Hope”, says it took about a day to knock up. “It’s not a particularly daring image,” he says, a trifle apologetically. The colours – red, white and blue, but not quite the red, white and blue of the flag – were carefully selected, though. “Like, hey, we’re behind this guy, we’re patriotic, but on our terms, you know – that’s kind of what I was going for,” he says. “The palette of the flag is just too loud and immediately suggests a pick-up truck with a gun rack.”
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