I love these Obama posters, partly because they bring to mind the graphic political posters of the 30s and 40s. Some examples: here, here, and here.
Compare the reception these posters have gotten to a similar attempt to bring back an old style. The Martin Luther King Memorial commissioned a Chinese sculptor to create a statue of MLK for the memorial. (So perfect in our current world of outsourcing, the statue is being created in China, by a Chinese artist - from Chinese granite.) Here's his vision in process:
That statue says "Lenin" or "Mao" to me, not Martin Luther King. It is 28 feet tall, and begs to be turned over in the city square after the government is overthrown. Definitely social realism style, propaganda style, having no relation to the actual person being portrayed. (Did you ever see MLK standing with his arms crossed?) Whereas the Obama poster, while stylized, seems to capture the man rather than trap him in an outmoded art form.
Martin Luther King deserves better. Maybe Shepard Fairey could design his statue?
WaPo: Obama's On-the-Wall Endorsement
All political art is propaganda (that is the point), but most political posters are bland, forgettable, wallpaper, like Fred Thompson on an off day. [Artist Shepard] Fairey wanted something more iconic -- aspirational, inspirational -- and cool. In other words, he wanted to make posters that the cool cats would want. The 2008 Democratic primary season equivalent of the Che poster (with all that implies). More Mao, more right now. The kind of poster that might make its way onto dorm room walls of fanboys. The kind of poster that might sell on eBay, as a signed Fairey Obama recently did, for $5,900. He wanted his posters to go viral.
"I wanted strong. I wanted wise, but not intimidating," Fairey says of the look for his Obamas. The agitprop pop art has become a must-have accessory among a certain subset of the candidate's supporters, who have gobbled up more than 80,000 of Fairey's posters and 150,000 postcard-size stickers since Super Tuesday.