Using Shepard Fairey to trash President Obama

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You have to hand it to the right-wingers. For them, any excuse to trash President Obama is a good excuse, even when the inherent self-contradiction and plain falsehood of the claim make them look as dumb as a box of rocks. Shamelessness is apparently its own reward.

The latest example is Charlotte Allen, a contributing editor for a website of the far-right Manhattan Institute. Writing on the Op-Ed page of today’s Times, Allen scolds Obama for having said as a candidate that he was ‘privileged’ and ‘proud’ to have been the subject of graphic artist Shepard Fairey’s now-famous ‘Hope’ poster. Fairey, embroiled in a fair-use lawsuit with the Associated Press over the Obama photograph he employed for the work, confessed last week to having lied to the court about the image he used and destroying evidence.

Allen claims that he got away with the deception ‘because Fairey was ‘one of us’ in the eyes of the fiercely liberal cultural and intellectual elite.’ Her examples? She cites exactly one: ‘The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, wrote reverently of the works, calling them ‘epic poetry in an everyday tongue’....’

Reverently? The quoted review of Fairey’s big retrospective at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art in fact laments that Schjeldahl wished Fairey ‘were a better artist.’ The New Yorker’s critic goes on to bemoan Fairey’s acts of vandalism in his street art and his ‘energetic but unoriginal enterprise involving a repertoire of well-worn provocations.’


And what’s up with Allen fabricating a plural? The reverence Schjeldahl does not actually display in the review is extended by her to some or all of Fairey’s ‘works, calling them’ epic poetry. No. As you can read for yourself here, the Obama poster is the single work to receive that ‘epic’ praise -- rightly, to my mind. “A ‘Hope’ poster hangs alongside about two hundred and fifty slick and, for the most part, far more resistible works’ in the show, Schjeldahl wrote in February.

So who does Allen cite as a sterling example of someone who appropriately took Fairey to task for his shenanigans way back when? Again, there’s just one: Los Angeles artist Mark Vallen -- described without irony as one of ‘Fairey’s fellow leftists in the arts community.’

Huh? Didn’t Allen just claim that the fiercely liberal and intellectual elite was responsible for being Fairey’s evil enabler? And didn’t any right-wingers take him to task back then?

It doesn’t stop there. The incoherent screed goes on to insist, without any additional stabs at evidence, that artists and intellectuals ‘seem to agree that there should be one moral standard for artists and another for everyone else.’ Perhaps that’s what the shrinks call projection.

Like I say, you’ve got to hand it to her: Allen gives the concept of ‘fair use’ a whole new, deeply pathetic meaning.

-- Christopher Knight

Illustration credit: Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times; referenced from a photograph by Peter Foley / EPA


AP accuses Shepard Fairey of more lying

Shepard Fairey’s lawyers say they have not yet withdrawn from AP case

Shepard Fairey admits to wrongdoing in AP lawsuit

Art review: Shepard Fairey at ICA Boston