Chicago

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On our recent visit to Chicago, we discovered the delightfully playful aesthetic of the hugely talented and prolific graphic artist and music enthusiast CHema Skandal! An interview with the artist follows:

I love your artwork’s playful, spirited – often-irreverent – sensibility. What is your main inspiration? The roots of your aesthetic?

I grew up in Mexico City, and its distinct culture has inspired my aesthetic. I was influenced by everything I saw around me – hand-painted street signs, eye-catching graphic designs, everyday visual communication… Popular culture, in general, – and particularly music – is a constant inspiration. And since coming to Chicago, my work has been influenced by what I see here.

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On visiting Pilsen, we came upon a mural that you painted. When did you first paint on the streets?

Yes, that was precisely the first time I painted on the streets. The first mural I ever did is here in Chicago.

What inspired you to paint a mural in a public space?

That mural in Pilsen was commissioned by a city cultural program. It coincided with me wanting to explore and try a different medium like this. At the same time I met Oscar Arriola  and Brooks Golden (RIP) who brought me into street art and exposed me to many graffiti and mural artists. Reflecting on it, I had done some wheat pasting before while promoting concerts or sociopolitical topics.

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How does Chicago’s street art and underground art scene differ from Mexico City’s?

A decade ago it was easy to find stickers and wheatpastings within Mexico City. But there have been mural and graffiti artists for longer, and really good ones…mainly in the outskirts. I don’t have this background, so I can not tell you much about this, but I think in many ways they are very similar. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, so you can find practically any type of art, whether independent or more affiliated to cultural organizations or brands. I feel that the scene here in Chicago is more open. Here I was embraced and welcomed by individuals and galleries alike.

Where else have you shown your work – besides here in Chicago and back in Mexico City?

I’ve shown in different places, from alternative spaces and libraries to galleries and museums. Among the cities I’ve exhibited in are: Toulouse, Lyon, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Addis Ababa, Kingston, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tokyo and here in the U.S.

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Do you have a formal art education?

Yes. I studied Visual Communication & Illustration at U.N.A.M.’s National School of Art.

How do you feel about the role of social media in all of this?

I was the last one to use it! I think it can be overwhelming, but it has become a helpful platform for us artists to share our work and promote ourselves.

And is your artwork the main source of your income?

Yes, as of right now I am lucky my illustration work is steady. My projects range from publicity — like flyers, magazine illustrations and printed posters —  to commissioned art.

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Can you tell us something about your process?

Almost everything I create is by hand. I work with inks, acrylics and oils. I usually start a project like that and then transfer it to the computer to finish it off. I especially enjoy the painting process. I like the organic texture of what I can produce that way. I’ve also studied traditional printing techniques. Lately I’ve been getting back into block printing, one of the first mediums I learned. I find it interesting how you can reproduce prints and also the history of it.

Any favorite artists? Artists who’ve influenced you?

I like and admire many, mainly for their unique way they represent their visions. Among my favorites are: the late Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada; the American comic artist Charles Burns and the satirical street artist Banksy.. I also like American and Cuban poster makers from the 60’s.

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How has your work evolved through the years?

I think as an artist you are always learning from others. I’ve discovered work that inspires me and makes me want to emulate a technique and try it. Most of the time during this experience you find something that fits your work, like with street Aart in my case. I am still exploring it. My work has changed, and I hope it keeps evolving.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I think an artist is an amplifier of society. Artists should stimulate the feelings and ideas that are hard to digest. This can be very subjective, of course, but in the end that is where the individual’s sensitivity should focus on. An artist should reflect on the social movements of our time.

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What’s ahead?

I would like to learn old painting techniques that are not in use anymore. And to find a residency in a far deserted island.

Sounds good!

 All photos courtesy of  the artist; interview by Lois Stavsky with Tara Murray

Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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stinkfish-street-art-pilsen-chicago-1

Located on the West Side of Chicago, Pilsen hosts some of the city’s most alluring street art works alongside its train tracks. Featured above is by Bogota-based artist Stinkfish. Here are several more that we revisited on our recent trip to Chicago:

West Coast-based Victor Reyes

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Chicago-based Lady Lucx, close-up

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UK native Jon Burgerman, close-up

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Brooklyn-based RAE

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Nevada-based Erik Burke aka Overunder, close-up

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Baltimore-based Gaia, close-up

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Photo credits: 1, 5-7 Tara Murray; 2-4 Lois Stavsky

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Ranging from the comical to the fantastical, dozens of characters grace the walls of Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail aka the 606. Pictured above is a close-up from a huge mural by Mr. Thor and others. Here are several more we captured last week:

Nerd X

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Cujo, Dred Ske, Rahmaan Statik and Max Sansing

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Del Real Ink

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Traz

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Tsel One

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Photo credits: 1, 2, 4 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 6 Tara Murray

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Launched by the Wabash Arts Corridor and Columbia College Chicago, WAC Big Walls Festval continues to transform Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood into a vibrant outdoor museum. Pictured above is Brazilian artist Kobra‘s tribute to legendary blues musician, Muddy Waters. Here are several more murals — gracing the walls of the Loop — that we captured while visiting Chicago this past week:

Argentine arist Marina Zumi, close-up

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German artist Hera of Herakut

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Dutch artist Collin van der Sluijs

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Chicago’s Don’t Fret on college debt!

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Chicago’s Likes1

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Chicago’s Amuse 126

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Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky, 4-7 Tara Murray

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amuse-graffiti-logan-square-chicago

The exterior of Logan Square’s former Megamall, along with its adjoining parking lot, boasts over two dozen first rate murals. Pictured above is by Amuse 126, who curated the art that was painted on the soon-to-be demolished Megamall building. Here’s a sampling of art on the building and in its adjoining parking lot.

Rahmaan Statik

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Ceno 2

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Merlot 

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Melon James

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Werth

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Sentrock

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Photos by Tara Murray 

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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el-maligno-zine

Organized by Oscar Arriola and CHema SkandalZINEmercado, the inaugural Logan Square Independent Zine Fest, is happening tomorrow, Sunday, October 23, from noon to 6pm at Comfort Station. While in Chicago this past week, I had the opportunity to meet up with Oscar Arriola and check out a few of the zines.

When I first met you in NYC several years ago, we discovered that we are both huge zine fans! What is it about zines that appeals to you?

I love that you can make a zine on any topic that appeals to you and can share it with everyone. There are no rules! And you can use any materials you choose.

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Do you remember the first zine that you discovered thet spurred your interest in this particular medium?

I started collecting them before I even knew what the term zine meant or even that it existed! My favorite was the one I bought at Barry McGee’s solo exhibit at Deitch Projects in 2005. It was $25.00, a lot of money at that time!

Wow! That is a lot of money for a zine — even now! But no doubt it was worth it! Any other favorite zines?

Just about any zine by Barry McGee and his crew DFW or Down for Whatever.

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You, yourself, have created zines. When did you design your first zine? And what was its topic?

I designed my first zine five years ago, although I’d been thinking about creating one for some time. I work for the Chicago Public Library, and so I’m around all kinds of books all day  I became intrigued by the covers of Indian books, and I began scanning them. My first zine was a collection of these images.

What spurred you to become engaged in this upcoming zine fest?

I love zines, and I love the idea of bringing the community together for an event like this.

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Have you ever done anything like this before?

I was one of the organizers for the Chicago Zine Fest three years ago.

How many folks will be exhibiting at ZINEmercado?

There will be 14 tables representing about 30 artists.

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How did you get the word out to the participants?

We spoke to people we knew, and we’ve been using social media. You can check us out, in fact, on Instagram.

What is the biggest challenge that you and CHema Skanda have faced in organizing this event? 

Making sure people know about it! We’d like to engage as many folks as possible. Our flyers include text in English, Spanish and Polish, as we want to include members of the local community. Admission is free.

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In addition to viewing, trading and purchasing zines, are there any other activities taking place?

During the fest, ZINEmercado will present a range of activities including art talks by Johnny Sampson and CHema Skandal, a performance by Wet Wallet, and DJ sets by Amara Betty and Esteban La Groue of Impala Sound Champions!

Good luck! It’s looking great!

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 Images

1. CHema Skandal

2. Gabriel Alcala

3. DFW Crew with Barry McGee & more

4. & 5. Tom Guenth

6. Alex Lukas

7. Sonic Visual Graphics

8. Flyer for ZINEmercado, designed by CHema Skandal, featuring image of  Oscar Arriola

Interview with Oscar Arriola conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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Nether410-No-Frontiers-artwork

Earlier this summer, Baltimore-based Nether 410 shared his talents and vision with us up in the Bronx with the TAG Public Arts Project. More recently his particular socially-conscious aesthetic made its way to Galerie F’s current show Let’s Talk About It  and to the streets of Pilsen with Pablo Machioli. Pictured above is No Frontiers. Here are several more images with commentary by Nether:

Rising and Raising of the Super Block, close-up, Ink on paper canvas, 30″x22″

Between 1950 and 1969, Chicago’s housing authority built 11 enormous high rise projects for public housing, which isolated most of the extreme poor in “super-blocks.” Cabrini–Green, Henry Horner and Harold Ickes are some of these housing developments.  As the economy suffered, crime rose. Many of the projects in this arguably failed ‘master-plan’ became derelict and were eventually demolished.  This piece clashes an archival photo of the mayor and developers hovering over an architectural model of a super-block, with an image of the demolition one of their planned developments.

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Baptized into the Movement, close-up, Digital print, 11″x17″

A young kid pouring a bottle of water over his face following being tear-gassed in Ferguson.

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Candlelight Protest, Digital print, 17″X11″

From a photo I took during the first Freddie Gray candle light vigil protest. Three generations of Baltimoreans witnessing the beauty of the struggle. That evening changed the entire trajectory of the movement.

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And on the streets of Pilsen with Pablo Machioli:

The Taming of the Bull

As part of a collaboration with Pablo Machioli.  Painted from ground with mini rollers, a statue of Hercules wrestling a Bull in Pilsen, a South Side-neighborhood  being redeveloped. The figure taming the bull is blinded by gold while the bull is being pierced by an arrow — shot through the Robert Taylor Homes — into his throat. Between 1950 and 1969, Chicago’s Housing Authority built 11 enormous high rise projects for public housing, which isolated most of the extreme poor in “super-blocks”. Many of the projects in this failed ‘master-plan’ were almost intentionally underfunded, became derelict, were demolished, and now, of course, the surrounding neighborhoods are being redeveloped for a different population

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Close-up

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Let’s Talk About It continues through September 18th at Galerie F. Located at 2381 N Milwaukee Ave, it is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11AM – 6PM

Images of artworks courtesy Galerie F

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Back in 2012, Chicago-native Shawn Bullen brought his wonderful talents to Bushwick. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with the gifted artist who has just returned to NYC after spending several years in San Francisco.

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When and where did you first get up in a public space?

When I was 17, I got hold of some Mean Streak markers and started tagging the mailboxes in my Chicago neighborhood.

What inspired you to get up?

My friends were doing it, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t really think about what I was doing, and I certainly didn’t take it seriously. I also wasn’t very good at it!

Do you remember when you first became aware of graffiti?

There was a graffiti wall in New Hyde Park that I used to pass almost every day. But I didn’t quite get it! I thought, “Why would anyone write something that nobody else could read or understand?”

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Once you began getting up, did you ever get arrested?

I was arrested twice. The first time, I had climbed on top of a nearby fruit and vegetable stand to write my name. I was caught on camera, and I ended up having to turn myself in. Ironically it led to my first paid gig as the owner of the space offered me $200 to paint his truck.

What was the riskiest thing you ever did back then?

My friend and I would crawl across train tracks lined with live wires through dangerous neighborhoods.

Why did you do that?

To get to rooftop walls that we liked along the Green line.

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How did your family react to all this?

My mom was hot happy that I was breaking the law, but she was always confident that what I was doing would lead to something.

Do you have a formal art education?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing! But, yes, I studied Photography throughout high school. And then I studied Photography and Drawing at Columbia College in Chicago before transferring to NSCAD, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. But I didn’t graduate. I left after two years.

Why was that?

I noticed that most of the graduates were working in coffee shops. Few had jobs related to art. I had also felt that I had learned enough.

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How you feel about the role of the Internet and social media in this scene?

I think the Internet is a beautiful tool that allows us to share our work with others. It is difficult, though, to keep up with social media, and I know that I need to focus more on my Instagram account. I can get lazy!

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was exposed early on to the hip-hop culture. Undoubtedly, it has influenced my aesthetic. And when I paint, I almost always listen to hip-hop – Kenye West, Jay Z, Drake…

Have you any favorite artists?

So many! To name a few…Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Basquiat, Aryz, the Etam Crew, and – of course – Michelangelo hasn’t been topped yet!

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That’s quite a diverse group! Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with others?

From ages 17-22, 90% of what I painted was with my crew, the IDC Art House, but these days I feel more and more that I like making my own decisions.

Do you generally work with a sketch-in-hand or do you just let it flow?

It depends. I love to freestyle. It is so much fun. But for commissions I often have to present a sketch first.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

It’s never as good as I’d imagined it to be, but since I can’t spend years on it, I’m generally proud of myself.

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Have you exhibited in galleries? Any thoughts about street artists and graffiti writers showing in gallery settings?

Yes, I’ve exhibited in several shows, both solo and group. I don’t have a problem with street artists exhibiting in galleries. All artists need as much exposure and financial support as they can get. And I have only respect for artists who have moved onto the fine art world.

What about the corporate world? Any thoughts about that?

I have mixed feelings about it. Clearly not all corporations are evil. And, yes, I’ve worked with corporations. Corporate gigs, in fact, make it possible for me to survive as an artist. And why shouldn’t corporations support artists?

And do you work full-time as an artist?

Yes! From age 18 on, I was either teaching art or doing art.

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What inspires you these days?

I’m interested in exploring people’s ideas as to how we can save the world. I’m intent on uncovering solutions to problems that affect us all.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

I think much more about concepts, and I continue to paint on a larger and larger scale.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

It’s up to each artist to decide his or her role. I see my role as making life better. I want use my art to make people feel better.  I would love to change someone’s life with my painting!

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What’s ahead?

I want to paint! I’d like to create at least one piece of public art in every country in the world. And I’d love NYC to be my home base!

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos courtesy of Shawn Bullen, SHAWNBULLEN1@GMAIL.COM

Note: Hailed in a range of media from the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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en-masse-mural-art-close-up-pilsen-chicago

A predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Chicago’s West Side, Pilsen hosts an incredible range of public artworks. Following the train tracks along 16th Street, we came upon Mexican-themed murals alongside dozens of pieces by graffiti writers and street artists. Here are a few more images from this outdoor gallery, an initiative of the Chicago Urban Art Society:

Chicago native Max Sansing

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Belgian artist Roa

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The late Brooks Golden

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Chicago-based JC Rivera

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Chicago-based Joseph “Sentrock” Perez

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Chicago-based Ruben Aguirre  with neighborhood artist Miguel A. Del Real

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Chicago native Rodrigo Mireles aka RM Solo

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Chicago-based Rahmaan Statik

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Note: The first image features Montreal-based En Masse.

Photos: 1-3; 5-9 Sara C Mozeson; 4 Lois Stavsky

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An initiative of Columbia College Chicagodowntown Chicago’s Wabash Arts Corridor is home to over a dozen huge public artworks by a range of local, national and international artists.  Here are a few of the murals along South Wabash Avenue that I saw this past week while visiting Chicago:

LA native Retna, close-up

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 Chicago-based Pose

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Italian artist Never 2501

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Columbia College Chicago alumnus Heidi Unkefer

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French artist Kashink

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Brooklyn-based Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

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LA-based Cleon Peterson

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Photos by Lois Stavsky

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