Opinion: Shepard Fairey has ‘doubts’ about intelligence of Obama Joker artist


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Shepard Fairey is all for free speech and creating a political dialogue. But the man who created the instantly recognizable posters for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has some choice words for the anonymous artist who made the Obama Joker artwork.


‘I have my doubts about the person’s intelligence,’ Fairey said on the phone from Pittsburgh. ‘It’s not grammatically correct. It would be ‘socialist’ ... Obama is not Marx. He didn’t create socialism.’

Semantics aside, ‘I don’t agree with the political content of the poster,’ Fairey said. ‘They don’t realize that Medicaid is a socialist program.’ The federal Medicaid program, of course, predates the current administration by several decades.

It won’t shock anybody that Fairey, the guy who churned out the artwork that some call ‘left-wing propaganda,’ doesn’t get behind the idea of Obama being a socialist. But he does think the Joker poster is well done.

‘The artwork is great in that it gets a point across really quickly,’ Fairey said. ‘The Joker is a sinister, evil character that can’t be trusted. And if they want to make that parallel with Obama -- bam.’

‘A lot of these things are fueled by frustration,’ Fairey said. ‘Maybe they’re frustrated and don’t understand the whole situation.’

But who is Fairey to criticize the nefarious Obama poster when he himself is responsible for numerous artworks that ...


... painted President Bush as the villain? ‘My frustration with Bush was fueled by a very clear understanding of what’s going on,’ he asserted.

Regardless, Fairey is not proud of his popular piece that portrayed Bush as a vampire. ‘I think that it was a very one-dimensional presentation,’ he said.

Maybe one day the Joker artist will come to regret his notorious poster too. But we may never know. We’re left with no leads as to who made the poster. Even Fairey’s circle of well-connected street artists is still guessing. If it’s an established artist, he did pretty well to cover his tracks.

‘Most artists get to the point where they would like people to recognize their work by some sort of signature style,’ Fairey said. ‘Either, it’s done by an artist who doesn’t want people to know who they are, or it’s not done by an artist.’

Since it has no discernible style, it could just as easily be the work of a kid with a pirated copy of Photoshop or a middle-aged guy looking to spread a message. The latter would be especially interesting because the political nature of graffiti and guerrilla posters tend to skew to the left.

‘It could be possible that a right-winger finally got hip to the idea that street art can get people’s attention and be a valuable way to express a point of view,’ Fairey said.


- Shepard Fairey doesn’t think Obama is a socialist
- Shepard Fairey coverage in our Arts blog, Culture Monster
- A small photo gallery featuring some of the better pieces created by Shepard Fairey
- Shepard Fairey pleads guilty to vandalism, gets two years probation
- An Indian Shepard Fairey for an iconic Barack Obama?

-- Mark Milian

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