Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Hope" at the NPG

The original mixed-media, stencilled Portrait of Barack Obama that was created by the Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairey has been donated to the National Portrait Gallery and will be on display in time for his inauguration. (You can read more about it from the NPG's official release and in this article from The Art Newspaper.) It eventually will join the large collection of portraits done of every President that is in the recently-refurbished museum in Washington, D.C. I was there over a year ago with friends, and I have to admit that seeing all the faces of the Presidents and First Ladies around you really does give you an inspiring sense of patriotism. This particular picture became one of the core images of Obama's campaign and was reproduced in postcards, illustrations, and posters (my friends RL & DG have an enormous one in their apartment). I find myself wondering about the uniquely odd mix of colors. Although it's not photorealistic in any sense, the red, white, and blue of course signify America. They bleed into one another to suggest a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Even the way Obama's face appears in different colors implies his own bi-racial roots, which makes both him and this election so pivotal in the history of the United States. At the same time, the play of dark and light in the colors also creates a wonderful depth that radiates from Obama's face, complementing the way he looks aloft, toward the future. It is, after all, subtitled Hope.

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