Ray Noland understands the importance of duplication and distribution. His designs and Internet campaigns (including on the cover of this magazine) contributed to the ground swell of support around president Obama’s campaign, and continue to rally the populace around political figures and events. He’s the mastermind behind the “Go Tell Mama” traveling art show, and co-curator of the exhibition “Officially Unofficial,” which profiles art inspired by Obama, at the Chicago Tourism Center until May 31.
You can see Noland’s latest work on the streets of Chicago. “Run Blago Run” depicts the former governor on the run in a tracksuit, as he was often seen in his neighborhood, and “Survivor Blago” shows Blagojevich kneeling, attempting to make a fire. Describing the inspiration for his current work, Noland says that “the image of Blagojevich jogging around Ravenswood in the middle of winter (snow on the ground) in that black track suit was an instant classic,” as if the image presaged its own joke. Noland’s original design included the running governor escaping from Obama, holding ferocious attack dogs and casually chatting on his cell phone.
Noland sees himself as both a producer and consumer of media, and he clearly understands that there’s always a person behind the persona. His self-awareness, mixed with sincerity, is evident whether he is depicting Obama with a basketball in one hand and a “Law” book in the other, or giving our collective imagination of Blagojevich on a reality show a tangible vision.
Like many artists, Noland admits to being at one time disenchanted and “cynical.” The Internet enabled and inspired Noland to disseminate and receive feedback in a way he had never experienced. He could receive immediate feedback and support (financial and ideological) for his ideas and work. The “Go Tell Mama website” encouraged users to take a more participatory role in the political and organizing process by expressing “Hang um! Post um! Stick um!” on the posters page. The “gallery” on the Go Tell Mama site does not consist of Noland’s work but of submissions he receives from individuals distributing and encountering duplications of his posters across the nation. In continuation of this, Noland’s personal website encourages users to “Help Blago get-up around the country summer ’09,” and stencils of the “Blago” designs have been popping up in a few Chicago communities. Coverage of these Blagojevich stencils on the streets of Chicago blazed through the Internet from the Huffington Post to the Chicago Tribune, to papers in DC and Baltimore.
Noland’s work has contributed to a new paradigm of ownership of concept versus ownership of production. (Where Shepard Fairey appropriates, Noland contributes.) The Internet enables Noland to have his work duplicated by individuals on a global scale, thus exposing how releasing ownership of a concept rather than enacting ownership can result in a more successful message. (Sara McCool)
For more images by Ray Noland, see his Flickr page.