Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nope on Hope?

Blog readers that know me, have seen a political opinion or two expressed on these posts. Being a political creature and loving images as I do, the attraction to political cartoons is strong. The ability to vividly and clearly express viewpoints with images has my greatest admiration.

This recent cartoon commemorating John Boehner's ascension to Speaker of the House is a fabulous riff on Shepard Fairey's iconic Obama Hope poster. Of course, knowing a little more background enhances your appreciation of the art form.

Left: AP Photo/Manny Garcia, Right: "HOPE" poster by Shepard Fairey

Emerging from the skateboard scene, Frank Shepard Fairey is an artist, graphic designer and illustrator that first garnered national attention with his "Andre the Giant has a Posse" (OBEY) sticker campaign. The Obey Giant website says: "The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker."

Fairey created a series of posters supporting Barack Obama's 2008 presidential candidacy including the "Hope" portrait. Art critics have called the poster "the most efficacious American political illustration since "Uncle Sam Wants You". Because the Hope poster had been "perpetuated illegally" and independently by the street artist, the Obama campaign declined to have any direct affiliation with it. Although the campaign officially disavowed any involvement in the creation or popularization of the poster, Fairey has commented in interviews that he was in communication with campaign officials during the period immediately following the poster's release. Fairey has stated that the original version featured the word "PROGRESS" instead of the word "HOPE," and that within weeks of its release, the campaign requested that he issue (and legally disseminate) a new version, keeping the powerful image of Obama's face but captioning it with the word "HOPE". The campaign openly embraced the revised poster along with two additional Fairey posters that featured the words "CHANGE" and "VOTE".

Shepard Fairey

In 2009, it was revealed that the HOPE poster was based on a copyrighted photograph taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia while on assignment for the Associated Press (AP), which wants credit and compensation for the work.However, Garcia believes that he personally owns the copyright for the photo, and has said, "If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and what Fairey did, what he did artistically with it, and the effect it's had.Fairey has said that his use of it falls within the legal definition of fair use.

Mike Peters

Three cartoonists ranking among my favorites, include Mike Luckovich, Ann Telnaes and the creator of "NOPE" Mike Peters.

Besides creating political cartoons Mike Peters draws the syndicated comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm." And that would provides the surprising background to his 2009 legal troubles. His comic strip, not his political cartoons became the basis for a defamation lawsuit.

The offending strip

Colombian coffee growers took offense.Fedecafe, the representative for the coffee growers, said the cartoon "associated organised crime and the atrocities committed by violent groups with the hard, delicate and honest work of more than 500,000 coffee growers and their families".

The cartoon also affected the reputation of Juan Valdez, the "icon and symbol" of Colombian coffee, by suggesting that there was a connection between coffee tins and the victims of violence, Fedecafe said.

The iconic coffee grower, accompanied by his faithful mule, was created in 1959, and has appeared in countless TV advertisements, in the US and elsewhere.

The federation said they would expect coffee growers to be adequately compensated for damage caused.Gabriel Silva Lujan, Fedecafe's general manager, told reporters in Bogota that the cartoon "was an attack on national dignity and the reputation of Colombian coffee."He said he expected the lawsuit to be filed by the end of the week and would be for at least $20m.

Mr Peters has said that he loves Colombia, drinks Colombian coffee and did not intend any offense.

"The cartoon is meant to be read along with the rest of the week as a series of which the theme is based on the fact that the inventor of the Pringles can had his ashes buried in one," Mr Peters said in a statement.

"I thought this was a humorous subject and all my Mother Goose and Grimm cartoons are meant to make people laugh. I truly intended no insult."

I am happy to report that the lawsuit was eventually dropped, but I would not blame Mr. Peters for drinking tea rather than coffee.


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