Going, going, gone
Take our street-art tour before these fleeting works disappear.
At State and Adams Streets, the building on the southwest corner features three blue-brown mushroom stickers (about 1.5 feet by 3 feet) positioned 25 feet from the ground. Why mushrooms? “Everyone identifies with fruits and vegetables; it’s universal,” says the Grocer.
Several blocks north on State between Washington and Randolph Streets, you’ll find legit street art: In 2006, the Department of Cultural Affairs commissioned anonymous collective You Are Beautiful for a piece on scaffolding repeating the phrase in several languages. (Previously, YAB was notorious for its mostly illegal installations on the CTA and water towers.) “The reason [for] the project,” a founder explains, “is the grind of daily life can be tough. The barrage of advertising makes you feel like you’re not good enough. We wanted to give people a breather from that and say: ‘You are perfect as you are. You are beautiful.’ ”
Check out the big, gray industrial building at the intersection of Halsted Street and Milwaukee and Grand Avenues. An installation stands honoring “SOLVE,” a 24-year-old street artist killed in June; the street-art community collaborated afterward on this work that includes photos of SOLVE, paintings and woodcuts of animals—one proclaims R.I.P. SOLVE. “[SOLVE’s death] hit everyone like a train wreck,” says “Bonus Saves”, who installs paintings of plants and animals, including a snow leopard in the West Loop.
The alley behind Wooden Gallery sculpture studio (1007–1015 N Wolcott Ave) features frequently updated artwork. The buildings belong to sculptor Jerzy Kenar, who began commissioning alley art in 2003. And by commissioning, we mean he gave neighborhood teens $100, a can of paint and some Coca-Cola and had them go to town on his garage doors. Since then, the alley has been filled with cartoons or graffitiesque letters. Teenage boys work on the garage with their girlfriends in tow, “smoking and passing cans of paint,” Kenar says.
Pooper’s work also shows up in this ’hood; one piece, Yetis Eating Eskimo Babies (which depicts exactly that), is viewable from the Blue Line (just south of the Damen stop) on Heaven Gallery’s outside wall. “It’s a story line where yetis and Eskimos are at war,” she says. “I’ve had people say, especially in wintertime, [my artwork] makes living in Chicago bearable.”
Near South Side
Custom-painted stickers and designs by “Codo,” often utilizing his trademark Aztec bird, blanket Pilsen and downtown. “I’ll also mount collages and paintings [on wood panels] to unused and abused buildings in the neighborhood,” he says.
Sighn has projects on the South Side and in Wicker Park. One work near 36th Street and Kedzie Avenue is a 15' x 40' mouse painted on a set of abandoned train tracks (pictured at multipolarprojects.blogspot.com/2008/06/its-been-good-amount-of-time-since.html)—a collaboration with Italian artist “Ericailcane”.
Many artists plaster stickers on signs, newspaper boxes and mailboxes in Humboldt Park. At Western Avenue just south of Foster Avenue, You Are Beautiful installed its catchphrase (SOLVE painted the L in beautiful) on a grocery-store wall.