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[Chicago Artists] An Artist of the Senses: Roho

June 11, 2013 Leave a comment

My first love is between art and fútbol. Art is life. Vida es mi arte, I like to say. So it can be, at times, rough around the edges or it can be fine, depending on the moment. –Erick “Roho” Garcia

The wall located on 18th Place and Throop in the Pilsen neighborhood outside the beauty salon was bare for quite some time. The brown brick had room for a story, a vision and a message and Erick “Roho” Garcia wanted to bring it to life.

As soon as he had gained permission from the building owner to put up a mural, he designed it a couple of days later.  Having done pieces like this one before, the design and composition of the wall piece fell into the style of a series he has been developing on a smaller scale. The series captures women’s faces over a graffiti-style, 3D lettering behind them. The most recognizable, thus far, is of Marilyn Monroe with the word “Amor” behind her.

964809_4353930585534_1362398731_oThis wall also has a woman’s face, but with the word “Sky” next to her, based on the title of the piece, “Sky’s the Limit.”

Residents will stop to find out who he is, who the face of the woman is and to express their gratitude of the additional art beautifying the community. “That alone, is payment,” Garcia says.

As a resident of Pilsen, you may have seen him working on the wall described above, lost in music, focused on the paint. However, painting isn’t his only method of self-expression. In fact, Garcia doesn’t even call himself a painter, but an artist—an artist of the senses, more like it.

If you know anything about Garcia, you know him as a creative being and as a lover of fútbol; he usually only says it in Spanish. As a young man, Garcia threw himself into the two entities he fell in love with which have followed him as he has grown into the artist that he is.

A native of Joliet, Ill., Garcia immersed himself in graffiti and Hip-Hop, break dancing, and hanging out with his crew– The Envious Crew. Come high school, Garcia’s punishment for getting caught spray painting by his father resulted in being sent to Providence Catholic High School; away from friends, away from his life. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a blessing. It was there that he was introduced to fine art, involved himself in playing the “beautiful game” of fútbol and dabbled in theater.

His outlets and inspiration then and now are vast in variation. Keen on the beauty of creation, Garcia’s combinations show him to be unique in his collaborative mediums. From spray painting to acting on stage, mixing music for friends to dancing, Garcia surrounds himself with ways to be expressive.

His pieces of work are vibrant and lively. Filled with a mixture of blues, greens and yellows, Garcia implements what he knows onto the canvas, paper or wall he has to work with. “I’m an artist who paints on walls,” he says.

The feeling is urban, the look is imaginative. In a forward movement of experimenting and creating, Garcia carries his foundation in graffiti and love of indigenous Mexican cultures with him. It’s inevitably in all pieces, mixed with detailed human figures and faces. This is his own form of art that he’s called it “Graffiti Fine Art.”

Staring at pieces and looking at the movement, details and colors, there are almost hidden eccentricities to be discovered if you let your imagination run away with it.

In the past few years, the 28-year-old has been recognized for his soccer pieces; his attempt of capturing players in motion, depicting the essence of the moment, whether versus an opponent or oneself.

“I feel at peace when I’m integrating both. I present all that fútbol is,” he explains. “I loved it so much and I will always love it. It’s a perfect mix for me.” IMG_0352

Graffiti based over an explosion of color, Garcia’s skills have helped him develop a knack for motion. Working on large-scale pieces, solely because he felt limited by smaller canvases, Garcia created five-foot-tall images of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Ronaldo “Ronaldinho” de Assis Moreira and Lionel Messi—some of the greatest in the game.

As a student at the American Academy of Art, Garcia took a chance on himself and his love for fútbol and tried out for the Chicago Storm, a team in the Ultimate Soccer League.

“I made the cut and it was during finals weeks at the academy and that was tricky,” he says. “My art took a little damage in terms of not spending enough time on it.”

Choosing between his love for art and his love for soccer may have resulted in a sign that he should stick to art.  The Storm didn’t return to the league the following year.

During late nights, it’s common to find Garcia mixing music, painting or writing, gathering focus in a whirlwind of motivating stimulation. Lights on, a movie on the muted television, classical music playing in the kitchen and up-beat music playing in the living room is a consistent atmosphere for his creations.

Working on his own pieces, the After School Matters instructor also works on pieces for class, developing a curriculum and method of teaching best for either his high school or elementary school students.

For Garcia, being an artist is a lifestyle full of passion and life. Whether he is acting as DJ, painter, writer or futbolista, he surrounds himself with creative energy and art.

“An artist should experiment with all types of mediums. I always keep myself really busy,” he says. “I’m an artist. Art is life, that’s the simplest explanation I can give.”

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[Chicago Artists] The Educator: Naco

June 4, 2013 1 comment

I take a lot of influence from a lot of artists around this neighborhood and Little Village. I’m always getting new inspiration from people.
— Ricardo “Naco” González

Wearing a blue-grayish hooded sweatshirt, Ricardo González’s nose was red from the cold. He stood next to his table of pieces of artwork as people walked by, glancing and admiring the work.

“Are you the one that puts up those pieces on 26th street?” one woman asked.

The people who walked through Mole de Mayo on an unusually cold day in May in Pilsen already knew González for his work without knowing who he was. Among the various pieces wheat pasted to the exposed brick in Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods were giant paletas, cupcakes, a Ninja Turtle and ice cream cones all signed by the artist “Naco.” Clones of the pieces made by hand are put up every few weeks, whenever the weather gets nice enough to walk around the neighborhood.

However, that’s somewhat typical of González’s character. He’s the guy that is always there, commenting on art, talking to artists, smiling and being a lively, positive figure to be around. Then the question comes: “So, what do you do?”

People have met him not knowing that he is the one brushing glue onto cupcakes in the middle of sunny afternoons, the same ones they admire on their daily route to work.

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González, a native of suburban Blue Island, didn’t start as a wheat paster. In fact, his wheat pasting work was inspired by another street artist who goes by the name of Jay Jasso. No, instead González carries the capacity and desire for murals; telling stories, educating a community through art and making an impact. Small acrylic pieces, like those sold at street festivals, are only a small sample of the large-scale pieces this artist has exhibited throughout Chicago’s South Side.

A thorough communicator when it comes to art, González has been teaching classes right out of college. From water-color classes for adults, to murals with the After School Matters program, the thought behind his process and explanation without a doubt comes from the formal training. With a BFA in Illustration from the American Academy of Art, the broad pieces that this artist creates come with extensive amount of admirable detail.

Though quiet and always welcoming, the ambition to move projects is innate. However quickly he is known to work on particular art pieces, González takes his time to make sure the research for the pieces are accurate, representative of the community, rooted in culture and open to interpretation of the audience at hand. Maintaining and respecting the community is of utmost importance to him, as is the cultural significance behind canvas, murals and even his wheat pastes.

However, a few of his wheat pastes are just for fun like an ice cream cone with a bomb or a Ninja Turtle.

“You put that up?” asked another passerby at the Mole de Mayo festival, while pointing at the grimacing turtle head. González nodded.

“Check this out,” he said. He lifted his iPhone and unlocked it to reveal a photo of González’s wheat past as his background.

“Oh, cool,” González said smiling and nodding, in his own way appreciative each time someone acknowledges his art, especially in such a personal way.

Growing up, the 29-year-old artist wasn’t surrounded by his Mexican culture. Art pieces as a child were drawing cartoons even before he could speak. Yet, as he explored the Chicago area more and more, he found the Mexican neighborhoods on the South Side that he grew to love: Pilsen and Little Village.

“For the majority of the work that I’ve made, I’ve specifically created Latino or Mexican imagery and concepts. I speak to that audience just out of a service,” he explained. “I feel responsible. If I’m making artwork, I should make it something that matters to people of my culture.”

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Photo images by Israel Reza

Deciding that he wanted to go to art school wasn’t hard. Unlike those who may take two years to choose a major or second guess their college education, González was never confused on what he was going to do.

“I needed to figure out for myself as to what I wanted to do with it, but I never felt that I was wrong for it,” he said.

While exploring the city, González met many other artists, building his network around Chicago and making a name for himself as a hardworking and talented creator.

Additionally, González decided to take it upon himself to collaborate with various artists with different capacities. Creating a mural with Erick “Roho” Garcia and working with photographer Israel Reza for wheat pasting materials are only a few of the collaborations in which González has immersed himself. Challenging himself with new projects, (for example, teaching students to create public service announcements for a journalism class) is part of his repertoire.

Over time, González has fallen deeper into his work with creativity, following a path that has been laid for him. Regardless of the recognition that González has received for his street art, his large paintings and murals, he has kept a humble and distinctive personality, which he claims, came from his life in art.

“For me, it has guided my life. For each era of my life, I’ve been able to tie it down to artwork or things I was creating at that time,” he said. “Most of my lifestyle comes through that or with that. I feel that it’s guided me toward positive place. I’m still putting things together like anyone else.”

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