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Chicago Urban Art Society Pilsen Artist Picks

Carrie McGath

There is a lot of art going on in Pilsen, but it just became even more bustling with the Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) digging in its young roots in this lower west side community. The CUAS is a non-profit located at 2229 South Halsted Street. Its mission is varied and inclusive to emerging, mid-career and established artists. This organization was founded by Peter Kepha and Lauren M. Pacheco and it is blossoming into a vital vein in the city’s arts community at large and in Pilsen’s cultural community in particular.

Photo of Ruben from 1:AM (http://1amsf.com)

In February of this year, Nicolette Caldwell posted an article on The Chicago Arts Archive that outlined a panel discussion called, “Issues with Urban Art and Capitalism: Polymetric Panel Discussion.” Here, Chicago artist, Ruben Aguirre, weighed in about how he saw himself amid the scheme of urban art. A graffiti artist for a number of years, he discussed how his work was evolving along with, it seems, residual elements present in graffiti’s proverbial toolbox.

“My fine art work and graffiti work are starting to mesh in a way. As far as non-graffiti work, I have been doing a lot of paper collage … In branching away from my graffiti, I started doing paper collages because it is just different and I am focusing on color composition and layers. I like paper and the way it feels. I have done some installations as well.”

Aguirre’s use of color and composition shows through in all of his work of the present and the past. In his work, there is a pulsating life.

Object by Haulenbeek; photo from http://stevenhaulenbeek.com/

Steven Haulenbeek is a Chicago designer whose credo is as simple as it is profoundly complex. On his website he writes, “I am interested in the unconventional solutions to conventional problems.” As a result he works with emotion, risk and creativity, key elements for successful design. His works are whimsical while they are functional, reminding me of Chicago’s own genius of whimsy, Louis Sullivan and the implanted Chicagoan, Mies van der Rohe. Haulenbeek continues, “The objects that I create are made for people, derived from people, and are imbued with significance and personality.” His design philosophy as well as his designs speak to what contemporary design seems to be becoming: harmonious convention.

Chicago artist, Josue Pellot, has been called an artist to watch, but after reading interviews with him, I would also say he is an artist to listen to intently. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, his culture permeates his work with humor and seriousness in dealing with stereotypes. His hand-made families of Boricuas Toys, as well as his paintings and public installations, evoke emotions of all persuasions, and often, all at once.

Photo of Josue from Upset http://upsetmag.blogspot.com

Pellot said in an interview with Miguel Jimenez, “It was through graffiti that I learned the basics of painting, and it also taught me about public intervention to some degree — it can be in your face, and just as appreciated or unappreciated.” I attest that after reading about this artist, he doesn’t need to worry about being unappreciated by the arts community or by his Humboldt Park neighbors.

Photo of CHemaSkandal! from http://chemaskandal.blogspot. com/

The graphic and even retro works of artist, CHemaSkandal!, conjure so many things from outer-spaced-obsessed circa 1950s martians, to swag music posters. On his blog he writes that he is a “Mexican illustrator and enthusiast of popular music and graphics of the last century.” His music posters contain an unadulterated excitement and speak to his passion for Caribbean music; the images and color compositions in his nostalgic screenprints reference another time. Skandal captures the aesthetic of past eras while playing with contemporary life’s irony and complexity.