Designer and street artist Ray Noland, famed for spray painting images of Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich on Chicago streets and underpasses, pairs with the Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) to present “Pork & Politics,” a group show in one of the Chicago Loop Alliance’s pop-up galleries. Visitors to the space are engulfed in a branded, commercial environment; Noland painted the walls yellow, red and blue, installed a yellow- and red-striped awning, and placed a red hotdog cart with yellow lettering in the center of the room.
According to color theory, red and yellow stimulate hunger, an idea often used by the leading fast-food companies. Here, the colors echo the political appetites of the show’s subjects, who are leading national and local political figures.
Grinding together varied allusions to politics and hotdogs, the exhibition peddles mixed messages and hidden meanings encased by slick surfaces. About a third of the works deal with national issues. In Noland’s “Capitol Pork,” the Capitol building is divided neatly into different cuts of meat—whether belly, fat, or rib—ready to be sold. Another, “Rangel Dog,” depicts Charlie Rangel caught taking his piece of the cut in a New York deli. The show is most successful when it hits closest to home, telescoping on Chicago. While Noland’s “Chicago Dog” series is more nonpartisan, highlighting Rahm Emanuel, Mayor Daley and Carol Moseley Braun posing with the iconic Chicago hotdog, other artists are less impartial. In biting portraits, Don’t Fret lampoons political gluttony, including George Ryan’s imprisonment and Ted Mazola’s “sweet deal” for supporting the destruction of Maxwell Street, and SOLO adds fiendish horns to Pat Quinn’s forehead.
Whether it’s the colors, food imagery or staged political drama, this show left me hungry for more of the same. Fortunately, CUAS’s Executive Director, Lauren Pacheco, hopes to move the show to a larger vacant space on State Street next month, and plans on serving up more artwork and real Chicago dogs at the re-opening. (Laura Fox)
“Pork & Politics” shows at 23 East Madison through December 31.