Obama + Updates

November 6, 2008 · Print This Article

Elizabeth Peyton, “Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention August 2008” (2008)

I’ve been bogged down at work for the past few days, and then on top of celebrating Obama’s victory I have not only been busy but am now sort of sick. I have a ton of updates that will be posted tonight. But for now, enjoy the latest addition to Elizabeth Peyton’s show, Live Forever, (above) at the New Museum and an article on Shepard Fairy’s role in the election via Modern Painters.

“Why would Barack Obama invite a graffiti artist with a long rap sheet to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign on his behalf? We visited Shepard Fairey, who created the Democratic nominee’s iconic “Hope” and “Progress” posters, in his Los Angeles studio to find out.” Read the article here

16 thoughts on “Obama + Updates”

  1. Megonli says:

    Wait, is this the first portrait Peyton has done of a black person?

  2. Paul Germanos says:

    Opposed to Appropriation — Mark Vallen on Shepard Fairey:


    Vallen offers over a dozen side-by-side comparisons, placing Fairey’s works alongside the original sources of the imagery.

  3. I’m glad Peyton’s heart seems to be in the right place, but that is still one terrible painting as art.

  4. Brian Stevens says:

    interesting enough, super touch has posted a response to all this obey plagarism:

  5. NPR, Terry Gross — Spreading The Hope: Street Artist Shepard Fairey

    Fresh Air from WHYY, January 20, 2009



    During the course of the [above] interview, Fairey admitted that he possessed no knowledge of the original author of the “appropriated” imagery. Terry put the question to him quite directly; he [Shepard] stumbled.

    Reference the “Super Touch” article: The “Sex Pistols” employment of the Queen’s image might be a “Fair Use” of material under copyright as “Parody.” We recognize the Queen as a public figure, i.e., head of state. And we recognize that the Pistol’s graphic designer has done something to ridicule her image, transforming the original work in the process.

    Not knowing what he takes, and not transforming it in any case, Fairey can’t claim, “Fair Use: Parody.”

    When reading that [supertouch.com] page, and encountering the quotation attributed to Martin Heidegger, how many readers will reflect upon Heidegger’s 12-year Nazi Party membership? Further, am I to be lead to believe that Fairey has read and understood Heidegger?

    Whether in art or in politics, people who agree to say what has been said, and do what has been done, without asking ethical questions, are dangerous. Invent or repeat any new words that you like — recontextualize, appropriation art — it’s stealing.

  6. duncan. says:

    I’m no fan of Shepard Fairey but I think the law suit is ridiculous. All creative acts are hybridized and shake out of networked inputs and outputs, internal and external developments. The original photo is not the iconic poster that Fairey created. Stolen or not it is hard for me to imagine that anyone could claim that the photo or the photographer would have developed into the image Fairey presents us.

  7. Fairey wanted not simply to depict Obama, but to depict Obama [paraphrasing] in a confident and thoughtful manner.

    Fairey used Google to search for a photograph which as nearly as possible matched his [Fairey’s] aforementioned conception.

    Having chosen a particular image, Fairey copied the whole work, without consent of the copyright holder, getting financial gain, celebrity, and advancing a political cause in the process.

    The photographer, said to be Manny Garcia, had to invest time, energy, and money, in equipment, training, travel, etc., in order to “capture” said “confident and thoughtful” expression on Obama’s face.

    Garica seems to have signed a release, so that AP enjoyed his work.

    Fairey’s poster was not intended to be scholarship, reportage, parody, etc.

    The original creative act was Garcia’s, and he’s the one who’s really getting screwed: first giving the pic to AP for peanuts, and then having Fairey steal the work from AP.

    I think, standing up for art means standing up for Garcia.

    Your hair [SF] and voice [BaS] are fine. And we’re lucky to have you in town doing interviews. Thank you for putting-up with everyone’s crap.

  8. duncan. says:

    lol, Thanks.

    It is a discussion that the Art Law Blog plays out pretty well…


    I guess I fall on the highly transformed side. If you even give Richard Prince the time of day (and I’m a fan) or except Warhol’s Mao or Marlyn then how can we collectively not support Fairey here?

  9. Actually the image just has to show “sufficent” independance as a work of art. I think that is just — protects against conscious stealing. unconscious stealing is usually indeed sufficiently different, as I believe SF’s hope image is. Clear criticism, especially of famous people is always allowed and hardly ever questioned (such as the Queen on Sex Pistols, caricature, etc.)

    Something that bothers art scholars even more is when museums photograph a painting close up, no change, just the image, of a painting in the public domain. Then they don’t allow anyone else to photograph it, ostensibly on “protection from light” grounds, and demand huge fees for repro of a photo which they say they have the copyright on! A judge recently threw that out, adding this idea of “sufficiently independant” and I think he was right.

    I think it is a silly lawsuit, like all the rock song lawsuits, just to try and earn some money. I agree with Duncan about precident from dealing with other quoted images. The only significant difference Prince had in many of his early images was a huge barrage of curatorial explanation around the work — no visual difference at all. And that was accepted (I can’t stand his work, but it was accepted). So Fairey’s should hold up to. I don’t like all of SF’s, but the Obama one is very good, I think, and better than the original in many way, but at least different enough.

  10. Not all Fair Use is parody; not all parody is Fair Use.


    The safest course of action is to obtain the permission of the copyright holder.

    True: Given reluctance of a party to offer consent, there exists a parody defense for use of work under copyright.

    But the supertouch.com article presents the reader with a “red herring” when introducing Warhol and the Sex Pistols. Fairey makes no parody.

    Copyright and Fair Use both promote creative work and open dialogue — for the common good. Fairey’s usage is partisan and commercial.

    The strike against AP/Garcia is that the original image might be called a sort of “news” and merit less protection than other creative works.

    The “slavish copy” in the museum/painting example above ought not to be eligible for copyright in our [British] Common Law tradition.

    How deep are the pockets? What is the agenda of the Court? Attorneys? These things should be considered too. I am relying on 10-15 year-old Con/Crim experience which isn’t altogether relevant. Richard or some other party would offer better. I’m muddying the waters with concepts such as the “fair comment” on “public figures” defense in “libel” cases.

    Ethically, I’m troubled by Fairey’s repeated demonstrations of a willingness to take without consent: both imagery and also property upon which to display his derivative works.

    The “street” background that he claims doesn’t jive with his bio: Born in South Carolina, his father a doctor, received a degree from a private [RISD] school, and in his 30’s with a lovely wife, children, home, wealth, celebrity, etc., his so-called “rap sheet” consisting of repeated efforts to draw on a building when no one was looking…

    I’m shocked, Mark, that having had your paintings stolen, you would condone Fairey’s act. Shooting a digital camera [?] Garcia’s work was stolen in the medium in which it was created: a collection of 1’s and 0’s.

  11. I think many of his images are indeed not “sufficiently independent” — but some are, and this one is, I believe. But I agree, it is on the line. But a good work, too, I think.

    Parody is not the same as criticism either, and indeed, the slavish copy — which HAS been protected in the US and many countries, has been a real trouble to art historians publishing. And indeed, of course, very important is if it is COPIED and sold or not — sounds silly, but it is important. You can use almost any image for a one-of-a-kind work (almost, not all) and any image for teaching. But it is different when you get to making editions and signing them and such.

  12. (1) use a photograph in the public domain; (2) produce an original photographic work; (3) obtain permission to use a photograph under copyright.

    at least those three legal options were available to fairey. he rejected all three. why?

    what stopped fairey — at this point in his career — from “doing right by” garcia/ap?

    + + +

    while suing others — relying upon the law to defend “his art” from being taken, fairey wants also for the law to defend his own act of taking?

    said to be critical of american consumer culture he [fairey] works for pepsi, saks, et al?

    writing that his critics are “paranoid conservatives” he [fairey] repeatedly invokes as his muse martin heidegger?

    claiming to be street, he [fairey] has been privileged and enjoyed early success?

    being such a loud hypocrite while holding up art as his aegis he, like koons, makes more precarious the position of other artists: whittling away both our public standing and also our first amendment protection…in my opinion.

    + + +

    reference “fair use” see: U.S. Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, § 107

    reference the “slavish copy” see: Hearn v. Meyer, 664 F. Supp. 832 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)

    reference copyright eligibility of photographic copies of work in the public domain see: Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)

    i don’t know all the facts of fairey’s case; i don’t know every relevant precedent; i don’t know which court has jurisdiction.

    too, in all likelihood, the people at stanford [his defense team?] have their own [much larger] agenda, and fairey is but a willing pawn.

    but contrary to the assertion made in the huffington post article, fairey seemed interested in appropriating precisely and wholly that quality — the thoughtful expression, shot from a low angle, with a red/white/blue color scheme — which entitled garcia’s work to copyright in the first place, i.e., the “creative spark.”

    having written that, i’ll refrain from further comment and/or speculation here. please, have the last word…

  13. You are judging him primarily on his bio and the fact that he uses photos as a basis, that is hardly any just copyright considerationn (altho it is an aesthetic one to an extent).

    The sticking point legally, I would feel, is his editioning, numbering, selling them, hence truly copying them.

    Nonetheless, I think he truly changed it more than enough. look at them together, the mask-like separation of colors, the changed line quality and background, the word. It is far more distant from its source than any appropriation work or even Warhol. And it is a good work. I think a greater aesthetic problem, if not legal, lies in his Caribbean image work, his Big Brother image and several others that are almost identical to their sources.

    I think his countersuit is good because the AP’s suit is really mostly just to scare off others — and Garcia himself should (and probably really does) own it anyway. If Garcia were Swiss, he WOULD own the (c) — our rights cannot be taken by work-for-hire a la AP. His sefense attorneys are a group dedicated to defending fair use and even personal copyright, which was greatly harmed under Bush in order to make it easier for large corporation not to have too much go into the public domain.

    This is not a battle between two artists. Garcia has in fact separated himself from AP’s attack. It is between a large corp who steals rights by imaginary work-for-hire crap and a poster artist.

  14. Dustie Meads says:

    As a photographer I see this as a case I’d like to see go to the Supreme court and for the AP to win. I don’t see it as right for someone “take” one of my images and then apply photoshop filters with a few touches here and there and then claim it as theirs!

    He was not the one who paid the piper to be in that place at that time to get that image. If he wanted it, then he should have paid to travel to where ever that picture was taken, and then jumped through hoops and did whatever had to be done, such as having earned the credentials, to be sure to get a good position inside the press room.

    And this is not to mention the countless hours and training and expensive photo equipment and experience that went into getting the image.

    The internet makes it too easy today for professionals to have their photographs, art and other intellectual property ripped off by so called “artists” and I think the courts should step in and redefine fair use so people like Farley can’t copy/paste/filter his way into stealing my, or anyone else’s, original work and making it his own! Get a life Farley!

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