Wednesday, October 29, 2008
As Chicago Artists Month draws to a close, I wanted to share some great stories from Saturday night of Pilsen Open Studios, held the weekend of October 17-19. The sixth annual artist-organized event kept 18th Street hopping well into the night, thanks to some unofficial piggyback events as well as official gallery openings on the tour. The vintage thrift store Knee Deep cracked me up--they had about five pieces of art on the wall and a few dozen young hipsters out back drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Hey, any excuse for a party, right?
The Casa de la Cultura Carlos Cortez had food, a live singer and a guy passing out cans of Miller from a garbage bag while visitors admired the works on the walls. "If everybody has a number, we're zero," joked Victor Montañez, pictured above with one of his paintings. However, their convenient location next door to Number 23, the APO Community Center, kept the foot traffic coming.
Victor wasn't too concerned about making it in the gallery scene. "To hell with galleries. My art doesn't belong in galleries. They say don't touch. They mean people wear black. They whisper," he said, as two women got up to dance to a cumbia blaring from the speakers. Others joined them, and the singer called for a friend next door to come dance with one of the women. The couple tore up the floor to applause and cheers.
After a ten year break from painting, Victor returned to it recently with his signature rebel spirit. He now paints panels that can be shifted around to reveal different images. "I think the 21st century is all about alternatives and options," he said, noting that while other art forms have opened up ways for the viewer to manipulate the work, painting has largely remained static. "It's the last stronghold of tyrants. I am trying to shake up the establishment by saying there's a new way to paint. I wanted to put some authority in the hands of the spectator."
Victor put down his Tecate to show how his panels work. Here's the same set of panels grouped two different ways:
Though Victor's career has taken turns into politics and education, "the one thing I've always been is an artist," he told me. "I'm not gonna let people dictate I'm not an artist because I'm not in galleries. What makes you an artist is whether you follow an artistic vision."
"Like you," he pointed out. "Some people might say to you, 'It's not real because it's not a paper.' It's a whole new world out there. Cybernews is where it's at. Paper, you wrap it up and throw it out."
Outside, a number of artists were showing in the Del Sol Realty offices across the street, and a group of young people had collected on the front steps. I stopped to talk with Erica Sanchez, a young woman from Little Village who was getting inspired by all the creative activity around her. She's a guitarist who's played in the Little Village punk scene, but lately she's "kinda slacked off." Now, she says, "Maybe I'll grow some balls and start doing something. It makes me kinda wanna get out there."