Top Street Art Picks for the Month of August

By Fruzsina Eordogh

The month of August, while traditionally a slow month in the art world, has been a busy one for street art in Chicago. Before I get to the top street art picks list, there are a few things to discuss.

First,  paste-ups of Joaquin Phoenix began popping up all over the city (and all over the nation) at the start of August. These faux street art pieces were created by Shepard Fairey as part of the guerrilla marketing campaign for Phoenix’s new mock-documentary titled “I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin“. Shepard Fairey should sound familiar, as he  created the iconic Obama poster two years ago, and while these Phoenix paste-ups are somewhat creative (notice the bird flying out of Phoenix’s hair), the flickr and street art community haven’t taken to them kindly.

Second, Nice One outdid himself this month with his gigantic arc piece (subsequently the number one piece of August if you don’t want to scroll down). His paste-up was up for only one day before “Graffiti Blasters” painted over it. It is my understanding that Graffiti Blasters removes graffiti only if someone complains… and repeated calls to Graffiti Blasters (and requests to speak to a supervisor) got me nowhere, except this tidbit: it usually takes 14 days to buff graffiti, except in the case of profanity or nudity the graffiti is removed as quickly as possible. How and why Nice One’s arc was removed after one day is beyond me, and the color of the buff is also unusual. There was no profanity or nudity on Nice One’s piece, and it was not in a well trafficked spot, so the immediate removal of this work, whether it was by Graffiti Blasters or some jealous street artist,  is uncalled for and excruciatingly infuriating.

Third,  Huffington Post ran a poll yesterday asking users to vote which city, out of Philadelphia, Berlin and Chicago, has the best street art. The poll showcased two older pop-like advert-looking street art pieces as representative of Chicago (an oiled bird not even in Chicago, and an over-sized grapefruit). No mention of Nice One, Goons, Ray Noland, or CLS – if I was the paranoid type, I’d take this as a stab at me…

Fourth, in Paul Klein’s latest Art Letter, he interviewed MCA’s new Head Curator Michael Darling and their conversation was  informative and easy to follow for non- hardcore art elitists. If Darling is serious about looking at local talent, I highly suggest Chicago’s street art scene.

And now the list…


“Welcome to Wicker Park” by Poor Kid, photo by Tyler . Mitchel

Poor Kid is a year onto the street art scene, and his steampunk styled robots remind me of Machinarium. Notice the Nice One sails on the bottom of the photo, and the strip of sprayed stencil robots – a new artist? You can see more of Poor Kid’s work here.


Face by Rejoice

Impromptu collaborations:

I included the above photo, taken by gabriel_xavier_michael, for its excellent composition and the “You are Beautiful Project” sticker.

Ask and you shall receive:
After heart

The  “Make it A Duet” stencil was first, the tagging next, the gold heart last. Above photo by Pinotmom.

Swiv has returned from his vacation in a major way – his iconic doctor images are now larger and feature dashes of color (and here is another new Swiv):

By gabriel_xavier_michael

When street art is clumped together, it is a sign of respect – the artists are saying hello to one another, though some street artists find this irritable as they want their work to stand alone:  the clustered art draws attention to itself and increases the chance of it being buffed. Nevertheless, grouping of street art is a sign of reverence, unless the pieces are placed directly over the intact art,  symbolizing an intentional slight.

Here is a recent sticker bomb cluster with Poor Kid‘s crew, featuring another new artist  I’ve been calling Banana Man. A famous collab featuring Goons, Viking and CLS can be seen here, and has been up since May with limited damage to CLS’s sculpture.


blütt stickers, below photo taken by Barrybu

blütt is a local artist that has been active for approximately 5 years now and his longevity and work outside the street art scene are reasons for his spot on the list this month. Here is an interview with blütt from 2006 by the Chicagoist. I am partial to blütt simply because he uses umlauts in his name. While it took me until my 25th year to be comfortable with them, blütt began using his in 2008. As the above photo shows, blütt doesn’t always use his umlauts. blütt has refined his style over the years, compare 2006 when he was drawing on his stickers with  2009. blütt is not above reusing his concepts – the haloed hunchback in the photo above has been around since 2008.  blütt once made a large piece in 2007, but this might have been a fluke. You can see more of  blütt’s work here


Tied for 7th place this month:
Michael Jackson “Final Product”, artist unknown, photo by gabriel_xavier_michael

A close up image can be viewed here.

Two hungry (?) children paste-ups around town, by Nautilus, photo by Tyler . Mitchell

Both images are strongly satirical and thought-provoking.


Peace sign, part of larger work by Hebru Brand, photo taken by Tyler . Mitchell


The Carnival, artist unknown, photo by Maxwell Colette Gallery

I am particularly drawn to this piece for its bright color scheme,  and creepy circus-like vibe (how did the tiger die?). The use of actual paint on concrete is rare in street art, so this gets props from me.


The Styx Boat, by 800 PGA

Sure, so this piece really belongs in a museum or a gallery, but the artist, after becoming frustrated with the difficulty of finding a home for the piece (despite giving it away for free), decided to leave it on the street. Whether the piece stays up for a couple days, or a few months, 800 PGA doesn’t care as long as someone sees and enjoys the work. The tunnel site was chosen as it resembles a cave, and notice the hands on the boat, symbolizing souls pushing the boat over the Styx river.


Blagojevich stencils by Ray Noland, below photo by semibold


This stencil has picked up gang graffiti over the month.

The Blagojevich trial and its hung jury dominated the news this past month, so naturally Ray Noland was out and about. Here is Blago combing his hair, here is Blago playing basketball and here is Blago jogging like he does.


Title unknown, CLS

Here is a close-up of the above photo by gabriel_xavier_michael.

August was a productive month for CLS, with at least six new sculptures popping up around the city. Three of the six pieces incorporated actual branches,  with one incorporating an outlet cover and another some old stencils (notice flickr user Man_Of_Steel “playing detective“).  Pay attention to this new towering work, and this solid colored piece that almost blends into the background. Here is a CLS piece that incorporates an old picture frame. In addition to the ones noted, two similar pieces have gone up this month: one appears unfinished despite the style similarities (or has it been damaged?), and this fluid and colorful piece incorporates fabric, making it very un-CLS-like in nature but not in concept.

CLS was my number 2 last month, and while I will try to provide some diversity in my lists, CLS (with Nice One) is dominating the Chicago street art scene right now. If Ray Noland’s simple spray-painted stencils get some sort of city protection, why don’t CLS and Nice One?


“Let it Rain”, by Nice One, photo by Mike Paro
nice's ark

Close-up shots can be found in Mike Paro’s photostream. Notice Swiv looking out of the back porthole.

Besides the arc, Nice One left some sails around the city( in color and black and white) and a trio of critters by a pay phone titled “Calling Home