Well, this kind of shot Shepard from the average street artist known to many artists, but not as well to the mainstream America to everyone's living room, billboard and art collection as he designed the Obama campaign Hope and Change during the first campaign in 2008. One of the reason's that Obama was able to be elected was this art campaign on top of a really slick social media campaign using Facebook and direct email campaigns. Without this art campaign, it would have been a great election, but likely a closer vote count. Advertising is really the crutch of any really good political campaign.
No. In fact, one of his first launch from the initial bootleg t-shirt and sticker business was in politics. He decided during school to put his local bombing sticker over the face of a local politician Cianci running for mayor. After putting the face of Andre and replacing "Cianci never stopped caring about Providence" with "Andre never stopped caring about Providence" it led to a major local political debate about the intention of the campaign, since Shepard was plastering the Andre over the original Cianci photo each time it was replaced. In the end, people looked so hard into Cianci that his behind the scenes corruption came out and the candidate went to jail on corruption despite being the "anti-corruption" candidate back in 1974.
I don't know personally, but I think he had lost his idealism of the first campaign as we were judging him based on the first 4 years in office. In fact, this was the time that Anonymous kind of rose to power exposing all kind of political high-jinks of other politicians and other powerful individuals. At the same time, Obama had overseen the massive bank bailout during the crash. The Fed bailed out $13.4 billion to the banks and almost none to individuals. Below is likely the video that triggered the bailout by popular stock analyst Jim Cramer. The really funny thing is all Financial guys use "fuck" all the damn time in the industry, but this really shook government to take action I believe.
They reacted very harshly. Right after this campaign AP, one of the left wing major news groups, decided to sue Shepard for millions of dollars for copying the photo of Obama to use in the Hope/Change poster. AP was correct in that he did not get permission to copy this photo into his art, but the whole idea of Shepard's art is to repurpose the average photo into a new version that tells another story no one thought about. They settled the case with a profit share of Shepard's work, but I doubt the original photographer saw a dime of this payment. The funny thing is the current regime of Trump kind of exposed many of the media to #FakeNews during a live White House press conference.
I think that he has continued to harvest great print sales via Twitter posts and early announcements. He has had to lay low in some legal jurisdictions due to multiple arrests for vandalism. Of course, he made such a large impact in his graffiti postings worldwide that he likely doesn't need to post too much illegal work as he gets regular large mural commissions from cities around the world at this point, which just reinforces his t-shirt, sticker and fine art print business.
I believe we share many similarities in the love of doing political work and repackaging it to attack large corporations that are basically brain washing the masses with endless advertising. The basis of his art was to use the word "OBEY" and Andre the Giant to challenge advertising, which later evolved into a brand and almost signature on every print he ever did, which is basically self-reinforcing to drive more demand; rinse and repeat basically.
Do you differ at all in viewpoints?
I think having been educated in Finance as well as art and having lived in an authoritarian regime, communist Poland and later post-Franco Spain gave me a more, well-rounded political view of how if you take government too far to the left or right is bad. As well as the beauty of capitalism as one of the most just systems in the world. Shepard tends to veer to the left on all political issues: women's rights, gun control, anti-capitalism, etc. without really knowing the full impact of those views. He used for example Saddam Hussein in a positive light and portraying George Bush as Hitler. The reality is that Saddam Hussein killed his own people and launched a bloody civil war with Iran that killed millions. Bush also attacked Iraq, but I think it was in connection or the belief connection to 9/11. Of course, some say it was just blood for oil, which can be true, but why didn't we lock up indefinite oil contracts. We didn't. Haliburton definitely made a ton of money, but not sure if its the same equal comparison. You can see above that he attacks armys that glorify war, which is indoctrination to war later, but at the same time attacking gun rights in the US seen below.