Author Joseph J. Depre has been traveling around the world to photograph and write about Street Art for the last few years and and when he returned to his hometown of Chicago he rediscovered his love and appreciation for the art in the streets of his city. The images in his first book just released give a very good documentation of the current scene while his essays are personal, poetic and passionate.
Opening tomorrow at the Chicago Urban Art Society is a retrospective of work by many of the artists on that scene today. With brand new works curated in this not-for-profit gallery environment developed by Lauren Pacheco and Peter Kepha, visitors will have the chance to see the Street Art talent that is growing in their community, including pieces by Artillary, Bonus Saves, Brooks Golden, Chris Silva, CLS, Senor Codo, Cody Hudson, CRO, Cyro, Chris Diers, Don’t Fret, Emen, 80 Legs, Tom Fennell IV, “It’s Yours, Take It”, Goons, The Grocer, Juan Angel Chavez, Kepto Salem, Melt, Nick Adam, Oscar Arriola, Poor Kid, Safety First, Saro, Sighn, Solve, Tiptoe, The Viking, You are Beautiful, among others. More information about the show at the end of the post.
Debuting his book “Chicago Street Art” for the first time at the opening, Mr. Dupre is very excited to see the show come to fruition after nearly a year of planning. Brooklyn Street Art asked him about the Chicago scene today and his new book and he gives us some insights here. We also had an opportunity to shoot some art on the streets of Chicago last month – see photos by Jaime Rojo after the interview.
Brooklyn Street Art: How long have you been preparing this book “Chicago Street Art”?
Joseph Depre: I originally had the idea for a book on Chicago Street Art when I started to integrate into the Chicago Street Art community in 2004. I think that is about the time I started writing. I was fascinated by these unique artists and was lucky enough to be able to talk openly with a good number of them, bounce ideas off the artists and they helped me refine my thoughts. As I traveled I was able to get together with Street Artists in cities like New York, Berlin, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo. After experiencing the Street Art in these cities and got back to the States my thoughts reflected back to Chicago and the incredible history of Street Art we have here and I thought it was important to give Chicago the recognition it deserves. So I’ve sent the last 9 months talking to all of the Artists and putting this all together.
Brendan “Solve” Scanlon (photo courtesy of the author © Oscar Arriola) from “Chicago Street Art”
Brooklyn Street Art: Can you introduce us to the Chicago Street Art scene at this moment from an artist and creative perspective?
Joseph Depre: I won’t be so forward to say I can tell you anything from an artist perspective, but as a conscious observer I can say there are a lot of good things happening in Chicago at the moment. Nice-One seems have refined his characters with an air-brush technique that looks really nice. Don’t Fret has really been putting in his time and effort. His characters are always fun and expressive. He’s turning into to a great storyteller. Mental 312 has been hitting the streets hard and doing some really beautiful work. He’s one of my favorite artists right now.
TipToe (photo courtesy of the author) from “Chicago Street Art”
Brooklyn Street Art: Chicago has a very active anti-graffiti program, which cleans or “buffs” pieces, good and not so good, quickly with brown paint. Can you talk about how Street Artists have responded to the efficient and rapacious pace of buffing?
Joseph Depre: Most of the Street Artist I know really hate the buff and attribute the fact that Chicago has so little international Street Art respect to “the buff.” But all of these Artists just work harder in spite of the Buff. In New York one piece can stay up for years, in the Chicago the Street Artist has to do 20 pieces just to stay up through the season.
Brooklyn Street Art: Street Artists like Chris Silva and Cody Hudson have gone beyond two-dimensional painted works to create sometimes expansive sculptural set installations. Do you see more stuff like this around Chicago these days?
Joseph Depre: Oh Yeah. The first artist that comes to mind is CLS. It is really amazing what he has been able with scraps of wood and branches he finds on the street.
Photo courtesy of the author (© Thomas Fennell IV) from “Chicago Street Art”
Brooklyn Street Art: Borrowing a tenet from the flash mob street manifestations of the last decade, Street Artists like BonusSaves devised something called “It’s Yours, Take It”. Can you talk about this practice of giving art to the public and how it has become an international programmatic approach to engaging communities?
Joseph Depre: The Internet has really helped out with this. Through sites like Flickr, BonusSaves is able to organize and direct hundreds of people from all over the place. All with the same state of mind and love of giving art to people and bringing communities together through gifting creativity. But it is not solely his doing… All the artists really believe in the idea and have been running installations in cities all over the world all by themselves. It really is a testament to the power of people to come together and do something really good just for the sake of doing something good.
Nice One (photo courtesy of the author © Chris-Diers) from “Chicago Street Art”
Brooklyn Street Art: You dedicate a few pages of your book to the occurrence of a piece attributed to London Street Artist Banksy on a wall in Chicago, and the response of the city and other street artists to it. Is there such a thing as a “Banksy Revolution”?
Joseph Depre: I cannot say what Banksy’s actual intent is – only he knows what that is. For my part, I hope he’s attempting a revolution. If not then we are all the butt of a pretty sick joke. I also hope that he doesn’t get discouraged, I think people are just starting to listen. Maybe not the people who were introduced to Street Art through “Exit, Through the Gift Shop” but others.
Mental 312 (photo courtesy of the author © Thomas Fennell IV) from “Chicago Street Art”
Brooklyn Street Art: What do you think distinguishes the Chicago scene and why do you feel an affinity for it?
Joseph Depre: Other than Chicago being my home and my introduction to Street Art, I think there are quite a few things that distinguish it from the rest of the world. The sculptural history exemplified by the likes of Juan “Angel” Chavez, Cody Hudson, and Chris Silva would be a good place to start. The other thing is that all of the artists are personally close here. Everyone knows everyone. They don’t just meet up at shows and events but talk on a regular basis and are invested in each others’ lives and success.
Brooklyn Street Art had the fortune to be in Chicago for a day recently where photographer Jaime Rojo got an afternoon to run around shooting as much as he could find. Brooklyn artist Gaia had recently been in the city and he left some nice gifts for the Chicago art lovers to enjoy. The images below are from that visit to Chicago and are not a part of the book “Chicago Street Art”