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Thursday, May 8, 2008

imaginary presidential art

It may be an idle thought of no interest to anyone but me, but I sometimes try to imagine what Jean-Michel Basquiat would have made of Barack Obama. Being a great admirer of both, I naturally imagine that Basquiat would have been inspired to add Obama to his pantheon of crowned heads, which included Joe Louis, Cassius Clay, and Charlie Parker. (Yes, that's an actual Basquiat crown that I added to Obama's image at the left.)

Although the similarities may be broad, the more I think about it, the more the two seem to have in common. Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960, just 225 days before Obama on August 4, 1961. Both rose like rocketships to dominate their fields, painting and politics, with a youthful vigor more desperately needed than we had thitherto realized. And both confounded the usual American racial categories by having black parents from outside the U.S. (in Basquiat's case, from Haiti and Puerto Rico), which may have something to do with a worldliness of vision uncommon to Americans of any color.

For what it's worth, I don't think for a second that Basquiat would have produced campaign-suitable propaganda, like Shepard Fairey's Obama posters, but I'm sure he would have painted something striking. That's the problem, among others, with people who die young: they stop making new work.

In lieu of producing anymore fake Basquiats for the campaign, I have a question for my readers: what artists do you imagine depicting the 2008 presidential candidates? Here are mine.
Barack Obama: Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Hillary Clinton: Lucian Freud.
John McCain: Goya.
Post your presidential artists in the comments.

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Anonymous leonardo da hinky said...

Obama: Braque
Clinton: Warhol
McCain: Pollock

5:28 AM, May 08, 2008

Anonymous J. D. Silentio said...

Obama: Glenn Ligon
Clinton: Rockwell
McCain: Bosch

8:48 AM, May 08, 2008

Anonymous Ethan said...

Clinton: Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose photographs of Natural History Museum dioramas make that which has long since passed look as if it might still be living, viable.
McCain: Besty Ross (his contemporary)
Obama: Hermann Rorschach

9:39 AM, May 08, 2008

Blogger Doug said...

Lucian Freud is too passionate and sexual for Hillary.

I'd nominate Thomas Gainsborough. Technically Adept, but dull -- both politically and aesthetically.

11:02 AM, May 08, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

Braque for Barack?

Doug makes a good point about Lucian Freud, but I was thinking more of the uncompromising realism of his portraiture. Hillary Clinton is someone we have seen warts and all for the past sixteen years. On second thought, early Chuck Close might be a better choice.

11:37 AM, May 08, 2008

Blogger Natonymous said...

I refuse to answer the question on the grounds that my choices could be used against me if I run for political office, but I wonder what you all think of this Obama poster:

8:49 PM, May 08, 2008

Blogger Luke West said...

Obama: Rothko
Clinton: Warhol
McCain: Anonymous, but mavericked out of Adobe Photoshop.

10:07 PM, May 08, 2008

Anonymous 42 said...

McCain..Van Eyck

11:18 PM, May 08, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

Fascinating answers so far. That's two Warhols for Clinton, presumably because of his silkscreens of Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. Would it be impertinent to recall that he also painted Mao?

Rorschach for Obama is clever, but why Rothko? What is the connection?

10:00 AM, May 09, 2008

Blogger bertzbach said...

For a supplementary comparison on this sophisticated blog page, I'm suggesting to think of their philosophies. In short:
McCain - Plato
(with a concern for the elite)
Clinton - Mill
(with a concern for the greatest number)
Obama - Kant
(with a concern for principals of all)
From a European point of view, I think that all have their advantages and that the latter is promising for future cooperation. To the emphasis on hope, see link from natonymous, I can't relate in distance, but it might work as an add and as a crucial motivation.

10:01 AM, May 09, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Jeff, what do you think our founding fathers would say about a crown on the head of a presidential candidate?

1:19 PM, May 09, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

Anonymous makes a good point, although something tells me that that would not be the founding fathers' only objection in this case. What they would certainly admire in Obama is his skill as a rhetorician. His eloquence belongs more to the eighteenth century than to ours.

Here is another idea for presidential art.

Bill Clinton: Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

Oh yeah.

2:01 PM, May 09, 2008

Blogger peter curtis said...

Obama: I'd agree Basquiat
Clinton: David
McCain: Thomas Kinkade...I use the term artist liberally here

The Whitehouse post Bush: DuBuffet "Rehabilitation de la boue" (1946)

3:10 AM, May 10, 2008

Anonymous 42 said...

I read with astonishment about Francis Bacon's triptych selling for $87,000,000. While I enjoy his work, give me a break!

5:49 PM, May 15, 2008

Blogger Jeff Hussein Strabone said...

The booming contemporary art market has Bush's war in Iraq to thank for the sky-high auction prices. Petrodollars, from Russia and elsewhere, are inflating the art market and protecting it from the recession in other sectors.

While that is a lot for a Bacon, a painting by Lucian Freud set a new record for a work by a living artist. The BBC has a short video of the auction.

10:44 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strabone, you got some mad money photoshop skillz

8:53 PM, June 30, 2008


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