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'Artists for Obama' donate prints to raise money for the candidate

September 29, 2008 | 10:48 am

Jba085316_2 Is art meant to bring about social and political change or to provide an escape from all that? This fundamental question is especially relevant now as the presidential campaign revs into high gear.

This month, 13 of the nation's best-known artists delivered an answer of sorts, diving into the political fray and contributing limited-edition prints that will be used to raise funds for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Brice Marden, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari are just some of the all-stars who have donated works to the "Artists for Obama" portfolio. The owners of Gemini G.E.L., the Los Angeles print publisher, commissioned the project and will give a set to donors who pledge at least $20,000 to the Obama campaign (it's an edition of 150). Gemini is the only art group dealing directly with the Obama Victory Fund, the joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee. Ek081578

Obama has won the support of a variety of artists this year –- from, the hip-hop singer whose "Yes We Can" is an Internet hit, to Shepard Fairey, the street artist behind the ubiquitous Obama "Hope" posters. To date, Republican John McCain has fared less well with the arts community, although some actors, like Jon Voight, and musicians, like John Rich, have been vocal McCain backers.

Admittedly, most of the prints in the "Artists for Obama" collection are not overtly political. Most artists simply donated a print of whatever they happened to be working on these days. But, Gemini co-owner Stanley Grinstein says, although there are no Daumiers or Goyas here, the portfolio shows that artists are politically engaged. "You've got to make a contribution," he said. "You're not just absolved from the real world; you have to be participating in it."

This isn't the first time Gemini's owners have motivated artists to support candidates. The studio helped raise $1.4 million for President Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996, and $1.7 million for Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

The collection will be on display at galleries and fundraisers around the country. It will be shown Oct. 2 at Frederic Snitzer Gallery in Miami, Oct. 7 at Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago and Oct. 9 at Matthew Marks (although that date is still tentative). On Oct. 4, the collection will be on display at the "Angelenos Go Green for Obama" fundraiser with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

-- Kate Linthicum

Image credits: On the left, John Baldessari's "Raised Eyebrows/Furrowed Foreheads (Red, White and Blue)," and on the right, Ellsworth Kelly's "Blue Gray Green Red." Both are a part of the "Artists for Obama" portfolio.