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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’s Underrepresented Artistic Traditions

May 13, 2013 4 comments

I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.
–Frida Kahlo

Three years ago, I was part of a two-person team to start-up and manage “Art of Fútbol,” an artistic presentation of artists in the community who created pieces that dealt with soccer and all of its glory. As a partner with Arte y Vida Chicago and Chicago’s MLS team, this gallery exhibition was hip and cool. We went through plenty of submissions, got into some good arguments and eventually presented a successful event at the Puma store in a prime location in Chicago.

Of all of the artists who exhibited, I made a few friends, a couple of whom are great friends of mine now, three years later. The initial exhibition was free and got people engaged and involved. In its third year, it now belongs to a foundation, has lost our teams working on it and they are now charging for entry. I don’t know if anyone is being paid, but I’m sure the proceeds of the attendance all go to the foundation.

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Erick “Roho” García

I only attended the inaugural event, but what I saw was amazing. A friend of mine created a very large version of Javier Hernández Balcázar, famously known as “Chicharito” the Mexican soccer player, kicking a ball. It was astonishing. Urban, colorful and well executed it was no doubt that it won the people’s choice for their favorite piece. It hadn’t been the first time I saw art of this creativity or level, but it was the first time I had actually met the artist, only to find a fashionably dressed painter and soccer player who was a neighbor, and eventually became a friend.

The level of creative genius that exists in Chicago is not original, by any means. And more, I have come to feel that many of these talented masters of the brush, pencil, camera and spray paint can have been overlooked. It is almost a detriment to the art world to know that people of this caliber– talented, creative, inspiring, philosophical, insightful– are not being given the time and attention that they deserve as creators who make this world more beautiful to look at.

I have seen drawings before my eyes that happen as quickly as waving a magical wand. I have watched as lines on a canvas came to life, moving through a piece, creating words, figures and sparking the imagination. I have spoken to those who can and will one day be considered philosophers of the craft. I have watched as imagination has been ignited like wild-fire only to produce colorful explosions that I want to keep and frame, even if it is only for a newspaper. I have had pieces of art, inspired by these wondrous souls tattooed.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that many artists around the country come into Chicago to display and show off what they’ve been working on. Urban art. Street art. Mixing graffiti with fine art. Developing “new” styles to be exhibited and shown. However, as quickly as I noted that this was great, I also countered it with, “That’s happening right here.”

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“Jasso”

I also noticed that the cultural tie, the Latino artist tie, was not as prevalent around the country as I’d like to think. There are a few in other highly populated Latino cities, however, the blatant cultural, statement-making ties do not exist as much as they should and again, I have seen my fantastic city overlooked as a place where art is happening.

It’s time to start sharing what’s going on here. So what am I going to do about it? I’m going to write about it. This is the beginning of a series of articles and pieces that will focus and talk about particular artists making waves in Chicago. Whether it’s a movement or a statement, I cannot say, but what I will say is that Chicago has a tradition of beautiful, moving, cultural art that would make any person go gaga upon knowing they could shake hands and speak to the artist.

I’ve seen that. I met a woman at a bar who lives in Pilsen. Upon talking, we got onto the discussion of street art. She showed me wheat pastes that she had taken pictures of on her phone. She went through plenty and when I said I knew who had created them and introduced her, she was ecstatic. “I’ll be right back! I have to go tell my friend!” she said as she scooted out of the booth we were in. I was thrilled to help her make the connection.

So, the Chicago tradition lives on, especially on the South Side. Displayed on our walls, created in our homes, the waves of creativity and inspiration continue to happen whether we want it to or not and it will be a constant. It’s just time to start showing off what Chicago has to offer and as a grounded, rooted and staunch supporter of Chicago art and insight, I’m hoping to do that for you.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll be able to find insight into who is creating these wondrous works of art and hopefully you find value in it. Enough value to, let’s say, attend a gallery opening or even pay to see some art about soccer. At the very least, ask some questions of your own and get out to support the arts.