Creating a series on street art in Chicago is like opening up a Pandora's box. You take a photo of a mural that was promoted (you know like the ones in the last post and the one before) and suddenly three steps down another mural shows up that obviously is eye catching and needs to be captured. And this whole process continues but it does not stop at just capturing the murals on camera. You come back and start processing the images and researching the backgrounds and low and behold, every research not only presents information on the specific mural that was captured, but also gives information on other murals that are in the area.
That's when you go "Ohhhh I need to go back and find these other murals".
This area; Pilsen, South Side of Chicago, does not have the best reputation.
Although it is gentrifying it still has a ways to go.
For now we will just look at some of the murals that I aimed to find and some that fell into my lap.
Black, Brown Unity Wall
In the wake of the early protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, the Mural Movement set about illustrating an art piece that symbolized a unity within communities. Artists came together to create the Black and Brown Unity Wall in Near West Side. The very next day, the mural was painted over. Months later, the Movement was able to recreate the message with a massive mural painted on the Pilsen Vintage and Thrift store. In response to the fate of the first mural, Delilah Martinez, who heads the Mural Movement, set up a Go Fund Me page that would go towards the creation of murals across the city of Chicago as well as beautifying neighborhood communities. (source)
Artists Sam Kirk and Sandra Antongiorgi created “Weaving Cultures” to showcase women of different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. The five vibrant faces show women of different age groups as well.
One of the women illustrated on the mural is Latina and transgender. The artists said it was important to have that person because of the discrimination faced by transgender people.(source)
My goal, going to the South Side of Chicago, was to find Frida. It is one of those murals that comes up over and over on websites and information about Chicago as a MUST SEE.
Therefor, it was a must see for me as well.
Normally, I tell my buddy Google where I want to go, give it the address and Google takes me right to the site. Except on this occasion, Google had a lapse of memory or had some sort of a concussion.
I typed in the address to Frida— 1713 W 18th St, Chicago.
Google showed me the path and I started following. I get to 18th and Google reminds me that the mural is on the right side of the street.
I look right, I look left, I look right again.
There is no Frida.
After all I know what Frida looks like. It is a rather famous face.
Instead I see the following murals.
Not the best looking or best kept murals, but what the heck, now that I am here, I take a photo or two.
I type in the address to Frida thinking maybe I typed it wrong. But no, sure enough Google gives me the same address and tells me that Frida's mural is right where I am standing.
I know by now that Google has lost it and I will have to find the mural on my own.
I retrace my steps and walk out of this street and notice that......
Google has sent me to 18th Place rather than 18th Street.
I start walking toward 18th Street. ( BTW street signs are pretty well marked in Chicago)
And Voila Frida pops up.
The mesmerizing image of Frida Kahlo with butterfly wings sits on the side of a Frida Room – a Frida-themed Mexican restaurant and bar that was due to be opened a few months back, but with the presence of Covid, it's destiny is unknown.
The mural was painted by Robert Valadez, Chicago muralist. This particular one is the last one he completed before Covid-19 hit the streets of Chicago.
In his own words:
"I've been painting portraits of Frida Kahlo for many years now. I keep revisiting her in my work. Frida was a complex individual, and her life was marked with both triumphs and tragedies. She had an indomitable spirit, which she maintained in spite of her myriad health problems, which had plagued her from birth. She lived life to the fullest, and she never let any obstacle impede her creativity.
In her last years, her doctors were forced to remove one of Frida's legs below the knee due to gangrene. In spite of this setback, she continued to paint. She also continued to write. In her diary she drew a picture of two amputated legs, and below it she wrote: "Piés, para qué los quiero si tengo alas pa' volar?" (Feet, why do I need you when I have wings to fly?")
It was this quote that inspired me to create this painting "Frida Mariposa". Her artistic spirit served as her wings in the face of adversity. She never quit creating. When I look at my life and my own problems; my own personal setbacks, I try and keep in mind the level of Frida's resolve and determination. Both her struggles and her victories have served as an inspiration to me as an artist and as a human being." (source)
And so now I too have a Frida, albeit took longer to find the mural than write about it 😉
Incidentally, Robert Valadez has painted some more murals within the inside walls of the restaurant. If it ever opens, it will be fun to see and capture.
Onward to the next mural on my list of need to see/have.
The mural below was not on my list, but I was lucky enough to stumbled upon it.
According to czr prz, the mural represents “to convey her as mother nature sort of figure, creating beauty and balance with her cello, shaping her environment around her." Ava Designs commissioned the mural and it was important to them to have the mural where the business was located. The model is Sylvie Grace (Cellist). (source)
Caesar Perez (Czr Prz) is a Chicago Native with over 20 years of experience as a street-artist, illustrator, painter, designer, and installation artist. He is mostly known for his street art and large scale public murals. His design and production expertise allows him to work on a range of projects, from custom corporate installations to fine art studio paintings.” Caesar and his partner Nick Glazebrook founded their design and production studio called Ava Grey Designs.(source)
Street painting in Pilsen does not solely involve walls but rather any part of a building or walkway can become the artists' canvas. In the cases bellow, doors were the used as the canvas.
This mural was based off of a Mexican “bingo” game called “Loteria”. KOZMO ( aka Brenda Lopez a Chicago artist) wrote “Pilsen” on “El Corazon” because Pilsen is the “heart of Chicago”. (source)
Lopez, gets commissions—not just permission—to paint on people’s walls under the street name KOZMO. The name was inspired, she said, by her love for the stars and magic; she’s created sixteen murals and other pieces of street art around the city. And her collection continues to grow. (source)
Artist unknown on the above but it is another one of the Mexican bingo game called "Loteria".
El Zocalo (public square)
This building is actually St. Vitus Catholic Church. The murals on the door was designed and painted by Trish Garcia, an Austin Texan graphic designer, who is famous for her friendly monster designs.
Door mural was painted by Ricardo Gonzalez.
Ricardo Gonzalez “NACO” is a Mexican American Artist from Blue Island, IL. Creating artwork within themes surrounding Cultural Identity Gonzalez has been working in various art centers, schools, programs and events within Chicagoland, surrounding suburbs and West Michigan. Most of the artist’s work ranges from murals, street art, paintings on Canvas, illustrations, portraits, and comic books. Merging Pop Art with Cultura has been a constant theme within the artist’s body of work. Gonzalez studied art in Chicago at the American Academy of Art with a BFA 2005 and later on received a MFA 2016 from Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Currently NACO is focused on creating his comic book series titled LA CHAMBA a fictional story about hard working Street Vendors. (source)
The mural was commissioned in 2017 by MLS and created by Sam Kirk to celebrate the MLS All-Star Game played in Chicago. Ms. Kirk creates her artwork to inspire pride in underrepresented communities. She states this project was a labor of love because it represents diversity and is in a community that appreciates soccer. This mural will remain up at least through 2020. (source)
Cheech and Chong at Memo's
I researched everywhere to find the artist behind the above mural. Even came across a video of someone claiming of being the artist behind this mural, but I could not verify it, so I let it go. But you must agree that this is quite a cool mural promoting this particular establishment. The mural below at the same establishment had more write ups than the one above.
The owner of the restaurant “Memo’s” requested for KOZMO to make this piece on the restaurants door. This mural was also based off the game “Loteria”. “La Dama” is one of the popular cards in the game. (source)
The Declaration of Immigration
In 1997, Yollocalli Arts Reach was started as a way to educate youth in Pilsen and to provide opportunities for fellow artists. Yollocalli participants have created more than 30 murals throughout Chicago. One of their most noteworthy murals in Pilsen is The Declaration of Immigration. The mural is “a visual dedication to all immigrants and allies who have marched hundreds of thousands of miles to advocate for fair legislation for immigrants and who have stood strong in the face of anti-immigrant rhetoric.” It remains on the former home of the group, now a Giordano’s, while the organization has since relocated to a site in Little Village. (source)