An American Abroad

The 27th Street Gallery — Part 1

When I arrived in Chicago, among the first questions I asked friends and acquaintances was where to go to see good graffiti — unauthorized public art. Betsy Rubin, who, like me enjoys photographing such stuff, suggested I check out 27th Street where it crosses Kedzie. Yesterday morning it was clear and sunny here for a change, so I took her suggestion.

The intersection turned out to be in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood with a friendly feel to it. The walls that elevate the METRA tracks there have been turned into a de facto outdoor gallery that shows off some amazing work.

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I was here:

The images lining the walls are strong and precise. They’re perfectly proportioned. The colors pop and reveal often intricate details. Now consider that the artists who created them didn’t have control over their site and that they were working illegally, probably dodging police patrols during the night hours. Consider, too, that their work could lawfully be painted over, sandblasted, and destroyed by the authorities in a day. As I suspect the artists intended, I kept thinking about those challenges as I walked along the walls. There’s a certain how-did-they-do-that boastfulness in their works that, for me, contributes to the sense of wonder and delight I got when I was looking at them.

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  1. When I got to the last picture, I was disappointed. I wanted to see more. Thanks for taking us along.

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