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If Obama Doesn't Move Foward, Street Art Will

It's election day. The harsh rhetoric from a bitter presidential campaign became Squawk the Vote and Stay the Coarse. No pundits, unless they are leaning toward a candidate, are willing to offer a prediction without some concessions based on a state's electoral mood swing. Thankfully it's nearly over -- unless a series of close outcomes force a recount.

Along with the rest of the country and the world, waiting anxiously for the results are street artists -- with their own brand of political commentary -- watching to see how they will be repurposing the outcome of the election for visual content.

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If we have four more years of President Barack Obama, it's not expected that there will be a return of murals showing the president as a mythical hero. Nor will there be a growth industry of him as a target of disdain (unless he representing politics in general). There could be simple attacks from a frustrated voting base, as seen with Obama themed murals defaced in Houston during the debates, or at University High School in Los Angeles earlier this year.



The Obama mural at University High School was marked with graffiti, causing the district to decide to paint it over completely, according to Michael Howard, Executive Director of Operation Clean Slate. "[But] somebody goofed. The teacher and administration decided to paint it once again and hired Operation Clean Slate to make it happen. We involved about 20 students and completed the mural in May 2011." The restoration was completed in one day.

Even that did not escape some criticism. The Report Card is a right wing blog that has a mission statement with goals to reaffirm "that civics instruction must lean heavily on America's Judeo Christian Heritage of individual liberty." The statement goes on to say that history is rarely taught and wastes valuable classroom time on " 'multiculturalism,' the virtues of Global government, and alternatives to the traditional family." A post directed at the Los Angeles-based mural says that it's another example of the Obama 2012 Campaign cutting corners "in their efforts to indoctrinate high school students."

If Mitt Romney is elected, and fulfills any talking point of a long list of fearful GOP goals, there could be a creative surge of political street art bursting with ideology. While the country was under the watch of George Bush, he inspired the subculture to "express themselves," said guerrilla artist Robbie Conal in a 2004 interview. "And I guess we should thank him for that."

There have already been hints of the direction that can go. Street art blog Melrose & Fairfax notes there has not been a lot of anti-Obama street art, but Romney has been targeted. "The streets are filled with street art focusing on tomorrow's impending national election, like this piece from Disgrace parodying Mitt Romney's logo and saying 'It only gets worse'."

What is certain is we will not escape the soundbites from the last few months. The artists' use of discourse to form subversion was directly countered by voices on the far right, which began before Obama was even sworn-in. Resistance as a forceful narrative is an umbilical cord to those who feel they have been unfairly represented.

Street art by Disgrace I Melrose & Fairfax

Top: Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama on 2012 campaign trail I Photos by Ed Fuentes

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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