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David Howe’s The Beloved Leader series takes direct inspiration from North Korean propa-ganda paintings rarely seen outside the DPRK. When the artist encountered these images he was struck by the contrast between their insidiously saccharine, buoyant, “Disney-colored” affect, and the cold reality of the world’s most severe totalitarian state. The iron-fisted Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were portrayed as kindly mother/father figures, nurturing and protect-ing their happy innocent people.

While Zuckerberg may not be a dictator, he has an unbreachable controlling stock interest in one of the world’s most powerful companies. His carefully controlled public image is at odds with the power he wields, and his frequent disavowals of his own authority ring hollow. 

To portray Zuckerberg as the Beloved Leader, these paintings borrow a slew of self-aggran-dizing formal gestures from the North Korean source material: the heroic leader, always the focus of the composition and noticeably taller than his comrades, is flanked by attractive, propaganda-friendly archetypes who look to him for inspiration and guidance.

Imitating the painting style of North Korean workshops with multiple artisans required the studio to assemble its own “painting factory” in Bushwick, Brooklyn staffed by a team of virtuosic painters. They are now working on the sixth picture, and at least three additional paintings will continue the series. 

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