When a young illustrator from Moscow, Andrei Tarusov, decided to picture how the Winter Olympics might have looked in the old USSR if the erstwhile Soviet government hadn’t been so zealous in suppressing the sexuality of its citizens, he let his imagination run wild. The result was an off-the-wall calendar that creatively combined Soviet propaganda poster art with vintage American pin-ups: scantily clad retro-babes in classic pin-up poses but with Soviet enthusiastic fire in their eyes, engaging in winter sports with athletic equipment from the 1940s and 1950s. The pictures were accompanied by rhymed slogans, written by the artist’s friend in the traditional propagandistic style with a new, ironic twist.
Tarusov contacted the Olympic Committee hoping it would sponsor his project in promoting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether the committee was protecting its reputation or it feared attacks from feminist groups, the answer was a definitive “nyet.” That’s when the artist decided to go solo with “crowdfunding” and posted the calendar, stripped of any official Olympic trademarks, on the Russian version of Kickstarter.com. His goal was to raise 120,000 rubles (USD $3,554) to cover the printing costs, but the result exceeded his expectations: donations from 1,493 people totaled 1,453,900 rubles (USD $43,060).
Shepard Fairey, the creator of the famous Obama “Hope” poster, made news recently with another piece of bizarre visual propaganda, this time denouncing America’s habit of clinging to guns and religion.
He produced the poster last month in support of the failing anti-gun legislation, and most recently had it printed on hundreds of protest signs in anticipation of a massive anti-gun rally in Washington. From sympathetic Buzzfeed.com: “Artist Shepard Fairey will paper downtown D.C. Thursday with copies of a new work aimed at reigniting the push for gun control.” Reality check: the advertised Occupy The NRA rally attracted only about 60 participants.
That the anti-NRA poster looks Orwellian is not a coincidence. Fairey probably believes he has a spiritual channel directly to George Orwell: after all, he had designed book covers for Penguin’s Animal Farm and 1984, in addition to a series of nightmarish posters collectively titled Nineteeneightyfouria. His Orwellian connection, however, is very unflattering. Lacking the depth and, apparently, the slightest understanding of Orwell’s actual message, Fairey rather channels some mind-numb Party functionary out of George Orwell’s novel as he manufactures establishment propaganda that facilitates the takeover of the individual by the all-powerful state.
The gallery page gives this blurb about Nineteeneightyfouria, likely written from the artist’s own words:
Shepard’s artwork both scrutinizes and distorts the narrative of the modern American Dream. Commenting on underpinnings of what Shepard terms the ‘capitalist machine’, it aims to critique those who support blind nationalism and war. Fairey addresses monolithic institutional authority, the role of counter culture, and independent individuals who question the cultural paradigm.