artists, chicago artists, interviews, street art

Questions with Ray Noland, Mr. CRO.

Ray Noland has been busy keeping us thinking, chuckling, and questioning, and he’s not going to stop. With shows like “go tell mama!” a touring show of Obama oriented work, “sweet tea and american values”, “run blago run” and most recent “pork and politics”. Rays’ work is a perfect example of the role of art in a politically charged climate(but ill let him talk about that). So, anyways. I wanted to start the year out right. And i thought a quick interview with Mr CRO was a great way to do this.

P.C.-first off, to connect your work to what i do at thepod. Your work has been widely seen around chicago as whet paste pieces. Mostly the run blago run series and other pieces. Something you were arrested for. And you have already answered questions about this concerning your own involvement. Do you think its important for the community at large to see your work on the streets, despite the risk?

R.N.Corporate America owns the newspapers and the television. The people own the internet and the street. I’m talking to the people and I want them to hear me. Think about it? How best can I get my message to you?

P.C.-Who are some of the people local, national, or international, that have influenced your work and thought process when it comes to making your own art?

R.N.The Designer’s Republic had a heavy influence on my initial illustrations. Electronic music and the Chicago scene in the 90’s was also a huge inspiration and helped carve out my aesthetic. I love that Warhol made the scene pay attention to him. I like that Banksy does very little and gets a huge return. I’ve learned a few things from Shepard Fairey. I love the bold blackness of Emory Douglas, Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall.

P.C.-You use stencils a lot to make work. What originally drew you to this technique?

R.N.-I was originally drawn to the art of stenciling after screen-printing for many years and thinking about how to make small test editions of up-coming prints. The easiest way I figured was to cut paper stencils of the color plates. After playing around with stenciling the layers of color I realized the process of screen-printing and the process of stenciling are very similar. I first learned how to make film by cutting red rubylith – which is a traditional why to make opaque positive film. Not much different than cutting a paper stencil. Instead of pushing ink through a mesh screen you’re spraying aerosol threw a paper stencil. I also like the art object, tangible quality of a stencil on canvas or wood as opposed to a print on paper. There are also other advantages to stencil art.

P.C.-How did your interest in politics start? And how do you think art fits into the political climate?

R.N.-I started to become interested in politics when I was hired as art director at Urb Magazine in 2000. Before then I had always been comfortable in my own little art world. The Gore / Bush 2000 election was the first election I really paid attention to and was ultimately shocked by. The elections of ’00 and ’04 were direct influences on how and why I participated in ’08. I think ‘some’ have always known how influential ‘art’ and the ‘image’ are in regards to creating a vision and pushing an ideology. I think the difference today is artists themselves are realizing their power in this dynamic with the aid of the internet and technology. Marketing is giving the people what you think they should see. Art is the truth.

P.C.- your show “pork and politics” already touched on some of this. the upcoming mayoral race. involving a lot of already well known names. what are some things that you think will be most important in driving the debate in this national race?

R.N.- I think the mayoral election in Chicago has been a bit boring thus far. Can you say yawn?

P.C.- you were one of the first in the country to get behind Obama’s campaign within the art world. with “Go tell mama!” a touring show of Obama inspired works. and some great street images. now, two years later, are you proud of the work you did? And despite negativity from both parties, the work Obama has been able to get done?

R.N.- I am very proud of the work I produced and will be remembered for. When I first met with the Obama campaign, I had to ask myself… did I want to work officially for them or keep my autonomy? I saw working at their office as being very similar to working at any other downtown corporate ad agency. Only with politics, you have less of a personal life. I was not comfortable with the process of watering-down my work to resemble nothing I’ve done. The campaign ultimately had a very strict ‘official’ marketing strategy of HOPE and CHANGE. That was it. If you didn’t have that ticket you were not in first class. GoTellMama! had a bit of a different mission. It was more about the DREAM, SPEAKING TO US, or THEY ONCE SAID. I was ultimately on some other shit. I wanted to put the election into a historical context. Not just sell red, white and blue. I’ve had my issues with the Obama administration since the campaign so the way the last two years has played out doesn’t surprise me. I mean it started with President Obama’s first press conference when Anne Compton asked him about race and he dodged the question. The tone was set then. Especially when he casually talked about what dog the first family would adopt later on in the same news conference. It’s obvious his hands are a bit tied but I think he’s doing the best he can with his feet.



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