Friday, February 6, 2009

Power of Posters

A generation ago, the communist government and society of Poland was challenged by dissent. The dissent was peaceful and systemic throughout the country. One slogan, the name of the labor union, which, gave name to the movement was placed in the world’s consciousness ― Solidarność, Solidarity. On posters, banners, clothing, the one word spoke tremendously, and one iconic formulation was recognised by the world, and the world knew.

During World War II, the british government printed over 2 million posters with a message, that would be understood, for its reserve and resolve. The threshold of emergency was not crossed for it to be issued, but, now looking at it, one can see its message. It would have been effective, it is effective in hypothetical retrospect.

Last year, during the american presidential campaign, Shepherd Fairey took a photograph, and drew and silk screened a poster of the, then, future president and the word ― Hope. It was much reproduced. The artist made no money on it, that was not his aim; yet, now Associated Press wants to sue him, because the model he used was from a cropped photograph by an AP employee. Simple, reflexive, presumptuous greed on the part of someone, or agency, living in a culture that elevates private gain to ne plus ultra.

Many found Fairey’s poster a source of imitation and even humor. There was one with Palin and the word, “NOPE”, there was one of Bob Hope. Also, last year Benedict XVI visited New York City, and a poster was commissioned. The idea was simple and endlessly adaptable. One can take the design and use it for anything. You can take your photo, and have it, transformed similarly. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol had a similar ethos on subjects, including a series on soup cans. It is popular art. It is popular art, that can have greater public, and political interest.

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