The Curious Curator
During your stay at Thompson Chicago, don’t miss the hotel’s “Secret Stairwell” where a rotating roster of artists install vibrant, eye-popping artworks. Who’s in charge of wrangling all the talent? Sara Dulkin. Below, the Thompson collaborator and owner of the Chicago Truborn Gallery (although they like to call themselves an “anti” gallery), which specializes in street and graffiti artists, tells us about the city’s art scene.
Tell us about three artists who are included in your exhibition. What excites you about their work?
Lauren Asta is a prolific Chicago-based artist whose work can be seen across West Town, Pilsen, and the West Loop. Specializing in doodle art, street art, and murals, she showcases characters doing what they do best—being humorous about the human experience. In her singular graphic black and white illustrative style, she creates personalities who are an amalgamation of all races, gender, and sexual preference. The works encourage viewers to feel happy, think positively, and get inspired. Chicago Truborn and Lauren have formed a long standing relationship. We’ve produced countless murals together, and the gallery gave her her first gallery show last year. The show sold out. She’ll have her first solo show with us in 2019.
Mr. Switch is a long-standing member of Chicago’s street art community. While many in the street art scene post mass-produced, vinyl stickers, Mr. Switch is best known for his incredible hand drawn stickers that can be found on newspaper boxes and bikes racks all over town. He creates lovable and adorable characters often placed in whimsical environments. They sport funky hair, lack an eye, or possess an exploding heart. Mr. Switch made his (harrowing) way through art school, and his work displays his deep understanding of color theory, line work, composition, and other fine art tools of the trade. Chicago Truborn has been lucky enough to work with Mr. Switch since the gallery’s inception and the gallery is very excited to announce we will host his first-ever solo show in October 2018.
Michael Roy is a Memphis College of Art graduate, contemporary/street art muralist, and illustrator from Escatawpa, Mississippi who works under the moniker “Birdcap.” He’s painted murals across the US, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Germany. An international hodgepodge of religious and mythological themes inspire his work, in addition to a dedicated nostalgia for the Saturday morning cartoons of his childhood. Our paths crossed many years ago through social media channels and over the years we were able to arrange a few mural walls for him here in Chicago. Last year, we decided to host his first show in Chicago which featured a large body of original works and also included a handful of fellow artists from Memphis and Chicago for a show based in mythology and folklore.
What’s coming up in the “Secret Stairwell” at Thompson Chicago this spring?
Antonio Beniquez and Anthony Lewellen will be contributing two new murals to the secret stairwell this spring. Antonio is making a name for himself in the community with his unique calligraphy-based style, created with large singular brushstrokes. From studio work to large form murals, Ant Ben draws inspiration from ancient texts and aramaic scriptures. Anthony Lewellen is a graffiti/street art legend in Chicago and beyond. He has been dedicated to his craft for over three decades as a full time artist. He made a name for himself in the midwest and beyond, hallmarked by street work that features a simple, bold palette and emotionally complex characters born out of direct observation and digestion of life in the city. Both artists have a very distinct style that can be seen immediately even to the untrained eye.
Where are some awesome spots to see graffiti in Chicago?
Chicago Truborn has been fortunate enough to help produce and curate murals all over the city. Specifically, we recommend that street-art lovers check out Chicago Ave. between Wood and Halsted, where over 20 murals can be spotted—from the very popular four story Eelco mural on our building (1741 W Chicago) to the viaduct murals on Chicago and Lessing. In addition, we recommend checking out the Wabash Arts Corridor in the South Loop. There we have a hand in bringing in multiple international and local artists alike to create 50+ murals. The Wabash Arts Corridor offers walking tours. Check out their website for more information.
How did you become a curator, and what most keeps you in the role?
My initial passion for presenting artwork in non-traditional ways inspired me to open Chicago Truborn. That passion is still a driving force, though it’s evolved into my love for curation and public art. In the last two years, we’ve made great strides in acquiring public wall space for the sake of community beautification and public art. I want to help change the urban landscape and the way Chicagoans experience the city. To observe an old building getting a major facelift with a beautiful piece of art is so thrilling just to watch. It’s even more exciting to contribute to the process: I assist w permits and paint orders, make coffee runs, and often spend multiple days standing at a wall while it gets painted. I truly enjoy watching these brilliant artists work their magic. The gallery largely supports local artists but we also enjoy bringing in international artists as well to help color our city. We are always searching for walls to paint and have no shortage of artists to paint them. Any business or building owner looking for a creative update in terms of mural work can contact Chicago Truborn at Info@chicagotruborn.com. We would love to get a jaw dropping piece of public art on your wall!