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Warhol Does Presidential Politics

In celebration of this historic Election Day, The Los Angeles Times reaches into the electoral memorabilia vault and profiles what it calls “the greatest modern political poster” — a ghoulish 1972 Andy Warhol mock-up of President Richard M. Nixon, in support of Nixon’s challenger, Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.).

Warhol_mcgovern_robert_hollister2_62-300x256.jpg
Warhol_mcgovern_robert_hollister2_62-300x256.jpg

Sen. George McGovern with "Vote McGovern"

From The Los Angeles Times:

With the title scrawled like graffiti beneath an official campaign photograph not of McGovern but of his opponent, Richard M. Nixon, Warhol incisively pictured a cliché: Consider the alternative.

That camp dexterity with clichés is what made Warhol a big success in the 1950s advertising industry, and it’s also the key to understanding Pop Art. But there’s more. Color is wickedly deployed.

Against a flaming orange background and above a hot pink suit, Nixon’s face shades from sickly green into bilious blue. The hot and cold complementary colors vivify the image, which accomplishes the reverse of what Warhol had done to Marilyn Monroe. Intimately familiar with Catholic icons since childhood, he had made Marilyn’s publicity photograph into an idealized depiction of the queen of heaven, just days after her tragic death. Nixon, on the other hand, got the Satan treatment, like something from the hellish underworld of Hieronymus Bosch.

Of course, political posters can only do so much. McGovern lost the 1972 election in the second largest landslide in American history. At that point, the previous June’s Watergate burglary was just a brief newspaper item. Two years later Satan–er, I mean, Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace.

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