LA Street Posters Inspired by Sabo

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, when President Barack Obama was in Southern California on yet another fund-raising junket to benefit his fellow Democrat politicians, he may have seen bus stops decorated with posters adorned with his face. These were not the Obama Hope posters designed by Shepard Fairey that became icons of the 2008 presidential campaign. These new posters appearing in the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park were inspired by street artist Sabo, a retired Marine- turned guerilla artist. Instead of the optimistic fantasy of the Hope posters, these images were starkly urban and reflective of today’s actual scandals and multitude of unresolved issues plaguing America under the Obama Administration’s myopic leadership.

Sabo-inspired Obama art

Obama Scandals

See Also:

President Obama Confronted By Street Artist ‘Sabo’ Inspired Posters During Los Angeles Fundraising Visit [The Inquisitr; July 26, 2014]


Arthur Okamura, RIP

This morning I received an email from Stephen Beal, President of California College of the Arts, bearing sad news:


Dear CCA Community,

I’m very sad to report the death of Professor Emeritus Arthur Okamura. He passed away on July 10 near his home in Bolinas. He was 77.

Arthur taught at CCA for 31 years. Upon his retirement in 1997 he was awarded the distinction of professor emeritus. A master teacher, he inspired generations of artists with his impassioned commitment to his work. Although “retired,” he taught a weekly art class at the New School at Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, and was working on a new series of paintings at the time of his death.

Born in Long Beach, California, Arthur and his family relocated to Chicago after World War II. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the 1950s he came back to the west, eventually settling in Bolinas in 1959. He was a prolific painter who also worked in screenprinting and drawing. His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. You can read more about his remarkable life here.

A celebration of Arthur’s life is planned for later in the summer. We will apprise the community of the details once they are confirmed.

We have lost a very important member of the CCA community. In his 31 years at the college, Arthur was an influential mentor to hundreds of students and a great friend to his fellow faculty members and staff. He will truly be missed. On behalf of the college, I extend my sincere condolences to Arthur’s family.

Stephen Beal

Arthur Okamura was my teacher for “Introduction to Screenprinting,” my first year at CCA. I was timid in my approach to this medium, and Arthur didn’t exactly take the pressure off. One day he came up behind me saying anxiously, “What the f— are you doing? What the f— are you doing?” Well, I was probably letting the ink dry on the screen, or something equally idiotic. But I learned to love the medium enough to take another screenprinting class with another wonderful teacher, Malaquias Montoya.

Arthur was the graduate advisor to a fellow student, Gayle Antokal. She is enormously talented, but had not yet hit her stride when she had a solo show of her work on campus. Arthur chastised her, saying “You are making stew when you should be making souffle!” I’m happy to say that Gayle now makes the most exquisite “souffle.” Her mentor would have been very proud.

Real or Forgeries: Nelson Mandela Prison Lithographs

The exhibit, Nelson Mandela at 91, is scheduled to run from July 13 through 31, 2009, at London’s Belgravia Gallery. Many of the lithographs, purportedly by the the former South African President, who will be 91 on July 18, are based on a series of sketches of Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.

The Belgravia Gallery’s web site states:

The lithographs were printed under the supervision of Professor Steven Inggs at the printmaking department of the University of Cape Town to the highest standards of printmaking. The quality is equal to the production of the finest French and British ateliers.”

But Mr. Mandela’s attorney, Bally Chuene, has claimed that the signatures on the lithographs are forgeries. “He did not sign those artworks,” said Mr. Chuene. “It is important to tell the public that they are being deceived.”

Anna Hunter, who managed the Belgravia Gallery, claims that in 2002 she witnessed Mr. Mandela signing the prints. There is a video of the event on the gallery’s web site. Ms. Hunter says that the authenticity of the lithographs and signatures have been verified by Mr. Mandela’s art teacher, his academic printer and a forensic handwriting expert.

The Belgravia Gallery represents Great Britain’s Prince Charles, who has had several lithographs produced based on his watercolor paintings.

See Also:
Mandela artworks are ‘fakes’, London gallery told [; July 12, 2009]
Mandela drawings rekindle dispute with London gallery [; July 11, 2009]

Happy Birthday to David Gilhooly

David Gilhooly

David Gilhooly

On any given April 15th, many Americans are sweating out last minute tax returns. But my thoughts always turn to my good friend David Gilhooly. He was born April 15, 1943, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. A sculptor, painter, printmaker and all-around fine artist, David rose to prominence in the 1960s as a creative force of the California Funk Art movement.

In the late 1980’s, I had the privilege of getting to know David Gilhooly when I worked as his assistant at a printmaking studio in California. In 1999, he shared his ideas with me in an interview for my web site, Art2u. Ten years later, From FrogWorld to ShadowLand: A Conversation with David Gilhooly is still worth a read.

Happy Birthday David!

Property Rights, Copyrights and Shepard Fairey

Obama Hope

Obama Hope by Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey, 38, the California street artist who accelerated to fame with his Obama-Hope portrait has pleaded not guilty to vandalizing property following his arrest in Boston Friday night. While he is in town for an exhibition of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Mr. Fairey may have also been painting “Andre The Giant” graffiti on several properties without the consent of the owners. “I’d love … to feel like the culture of Boston continues to encourage freedom of expression,” said Mr. Fairey said after entering his plea on Monday. “If that’s not going to be the case, I’ll deal with that.”

Barack Obama by Mannie Garcia, AP

Barack Obama by Mannie Garcia, AP

Meanwhile, Mr. Fairey has filed a lawsuit against the Associated Press regarding the iconic portrait of Barack Obama that now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Although the artist now acknowledges that he used as the basis of his portrait a photograph taken in April 2006 by AP photographer Mannie Garcia , Mr. Fairey has asked a judge to rule that he did not violate AP’s copyright. He contends that he is protected by the Fair Use statute, which allows for the limited use of copyrighted material in creating original works of art. Mr. Fairey further alleges that his art has a higher purpose than the photograph, “to inspire, convince and convey the power of Obama’s ideals, as well as his potential as a leader, through graphic metaphor.” (Perhaps a class-action lawsuit will be filed against Mr. Fairey for false representation and violation of consumer protection laws, but that is a topic for another day.)

The AP had twice threatened a copyright infringement lawsuit against Mr. Fairey, but was holding off on filing as the company tried to negotiate a settlement with the artist. “AP believes it is crucial to protect photographers, who are creators and artists,” said AP spokesman Paul Colford. “Their work should not be misappropriated by others.”

Clearly Mr. Fairey is a man who either does not recognize boundaries or does not respect them in his pursuit of his personal freedom of expression. He has unquestionably created a dynamic portrait from Mannie Garcia’s photograph, but the photograph also stands alone as a powerful image.

The topic of the transformative use of others’ photographs came up frequently in my art college days. One of my printmaking professors had done a stunning limited edition lithograph based on a photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, the first photographer for Fortune magazine and the first woman photojournalist for Life magazine. Penciled in the artist’s hand on each lithographic print in the edition is the title: “Transcribed from a 1937 photograph by Margaret Bourke-White.” In this case the artist did not appropriate the photographer’s image, he humbly paid homage to it.

See Also:
Creator of iconic Obama portrait arrested (Yahoo News; February 7, 2009)
Obama Hope artist seeks ‘fair use’ ruling in copyright fight with AP (CBC; February 9, 2009)
Obama ‘Hope’ Artist Arrested In Boston (WCVB-TV/DT; February 7, 2009)
AP Sued by Shepard Fairey Over Obama Image Copyright (Update2) (; February 9, 2009)
Shepard Fairey pleads not guilty to Hub vandalism (Boston Herald; February 9, 2009)