Gallery shows off Obama-inspired street art

By Catherine Tsai

DENVER – In a scruffy gallery topped with the word “HOPE” sculpted out of bike wheels, some of the biggest names in street art are displaying work inspired by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

“The Manifest Hope Gallery” is camped out in Andenken Gallery and an adjacent warehouse during the Democratic National Convention.

A print of Shepard Fairey’s wildly popular “HOPE” poster of Obama that has become a grass roots symbol of support for the campaign is here. So are the Nike Air Force Ones that Van Taylor embellished with Obama’s portrait, part of Ron English’s floor-to-ceiling “Abraham Obama” panels, plus work by Mac, Gary Baseman, Sam Flores and Ray Noland.

“They’ve taken artwork and changed the art world,” said tattoo artist and painter Eric Cox, speaking about such artists as English. “It used to be an elite thing. They’ve taken street art, and they make the galleries come to them. I want to be like that.”

Cox visited the gallery Tuesday with the Denver graffiti artist known as Ikon.

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    “Everyone from a senator can enjoy it to a bum on the street. It’s available to everyone,” said Cox, 32.

    That seems to tie in with the presumptive Democratic nominee, who moved his acceptance speech to a football stadium where far more people will hear him speak in person than in the basketball and hockey arena where the rest of the DNC is being held.

    The gallery has no official ties to the Obama campaign, though most of the artists agreed to donate proceeds from any sales of their work to the candidacy. The gallery is supported largely by Fairey, the liberal group and San Francisco clothing business Upper Playground, publicist Yosi Sergant said.

    The gallery also has work from five artists who were among more than 1,000 people who submitted entries judged by Fairey, Moby, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and others.

    Chris Yates had his hand-cut, wooden jigsaw puzzle portrait of Obama chosen for the gallery after meeting Sergant at Comic-Con, the giant comic book convention recently held in San Diego.

    “We’re making more art for the people rather than the super high-end stuff,” Yates said.

    While downtown Denver vendors have been hawking 3-inch Obama campaign buttons, Manifest Hope Gallery is peddling the 1-inch pins favored by indie kids.

    “They don’t wear corporate logos for anybody. They’re going to endorse Obama the way they want,” Sergant said. “Everyone wants to use their own voice to endorse Obama.”

    Gallery visitors can get tickets for Unconventional ’08, the free street party co-hosted by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday evening featuring Silversun Pickups, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids and Nada Surf, with a planned appearance by comedian Sarah Silverman.