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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, June 6

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Art Tue Dec 22 2009

The Blues on the Streets

VG1.jpgI met street artists Viking and Goons for an interview a few weeks ago at a dive in Logan Square that is adored by loyal locals for its warm, Cheers-ey spirit. Viking is probably best known for his skulls and anthropomorphized wind-blowing clouds. Goons is known for his stylized, teethy portraits. Their work is scattered all over the city, much of it rather large and very detailed. Viking and Goons are sort of second-generation street artists, hailing from a tradition popularized by the likes of Basquiat, a grassroots art movement, not to be confused with graffiti. Grafitti is more complicated in the sense that it involves more street politics and violence, and less complicated in the sense that it is basically a spray-painted human version of a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.

Viking and I g-chatted several times before we met up, determining that we would let the interview develop organically--he and Goons would talk about their new collaborative series, The Blues, and I would moderate the conversation. So, as we cracked open our beers, I pressed the record button on my old-school cassette recorder and asked them to tell me about The Blues.

They started talking about hockey. I asked them if hockey is a metaphor for art, and they said no. The next few questions I asked didn't take either, but Viking obviously had other stuff to say and Goons wasn't feeling talkative so he and I picked at his collection of sour candy while Viking spilled his guts. 90 minutes later, after I'd run out of tape, he was just getting started. Luckily I'd brought a backup recorder, and before I pressed play we collected ourselves and decided this would be the meat and potatoes. At the risk of losing his "Je ne sais quoi" in translation I haven't edited it much, and it didn't feel like it needed commas and spaces. Instead, here's a thick prime cut of inspiration for your enjoyment:

"OK, OK, this is what it is: I started listening to the blues from the thirties and forties, depression-era blues, and so I heard a lot of laughs I heard a lot of hardships, and I heard a lot of real shit. They were saying things that are funny and they were saying things that are real and it was stuff that I really identified with so I sat them down and I wrote them through. I was like let's put this on paper because we're going to do this and we're going to speak to everyone else because this is what they need to see because this is what they're experiencing, too. You know? Like whiskeydick blues. It's like alright I drank too much and I'm trying to have sex with this girl. That shit happens, you know? Cockroaches in my cupboard, you know what? I've had that shit. Spaghetti dinner six days a week. You know what? I'm at poverty status right now. All I can eat is spaghetti, but it's no problem you know? Goons and I, we're into parmesan cheese, he got me into parmesan cheese. It costs five dollars for a thing of parmesan cheese but you know what? It does make a difference. Bad cocaine blues. I've had some bad cocaine in my life. And it's just made me black out and I have to deal with it the next day and I think I'm never gonna do it again but you know what? I did it again, no big deal. The obese man's blues, that was about my dad, he had leukemia and diabetes and you know what? I wrote a song about that. I wish I could be there to coach him into a better life but everything he does is his choice. He's a grown man, what can I say about it? You know? That's the real ass blues but we're trying to poke fun at it. Slipped on a banana peel blues. That shit's just funny, you know? There's nothing funnier than slipping on a banana peel. That's some Looney Tunes shit. Some drunk cop ran into the back of my friend's car that was parked on the highway. He died in a fiery ball of flames. What can I say about that? I try to honor and respect his death anytime I can but that's some real ass shit, you can't get over that so you want to do something to respect his death. It's just one of those things. I had a friend die in an alley because he got stabbed to death a few blocks from here. That's the saddest shit that you could ever imagine happening to a friend but at the same time if you know your home team then you can wake up the next day and have people at your back blowing up your name and remembering every moment till the sun comes up. Flat tire blues, I get flat tires all the time, that shit sucks, but you know what? You've got to get over it. I make this work to make people laugh about their own situation. If I can recognize my hardship then maybe I can deal with it better. Let's all get together and celebrate the things we have going for us. Life's not terrible. Maybe I step in a puddle and fall into China because the puddle's so deep or I fall in a pothole and spin out of control. That's just part of living here. There's no escaping that. There are no rainbows after the storm."

At this point, the Blackhawks score and the bar erupts. Viking and Goons break into an anthem, pounding on the table. The conversation slips back into chaos, and after a few more minutes, we adjourn.

A few days later, I got an email from Viking, saying he wasn't happy with what he'd said, so he'd prepared and recorded a statement for us. Take a listen if you'd like and keep your eyes peeled for The Blues while you make your way around the icy Chicago streets. Maybe it'll warm you up a little.

[Unfortunately the audio file is no longer online.]


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mike / December 28, 2009 4:52 PM

Wonderful read and find!

SOLVE's Dad / January 10, 2010 3:04 AM

Viking's monologue is actually an epic poem!

Unnecessary Umlaut / January 11, 2010 12:50 PM

Awesome! Just spotted a couple on Belmont and had no idea who the artist(s) was:

I love the lettering.


joe / January 24, 2010 12:41 PM

These guys are assholes, damaging private property with 5th grade art skills. If your going to ruin someones wall at least learn to draw

POOR KID / January 25, 2010 9:01 PM

Hey Joe...Move back to the Burbs fuckhead. You obviously moved to the City cause you thought it was "cool". Well it's getting lamer by the day when jackasses like you pollute the Urban streets...So go home..

Joe / February 5, 2010 3:45 PM

HEY! Poor kid....Maybe you should move back to Wilmette or Skokie. I've lived in Logan Square for over 30years when it wasn't "cool" to live here, When you didn't have the money to make a choice. Now that the areas cleaning up a bit and is less gang infested YOU and your Hipster buddy's are the ones coming down here and trashing the place with your "Art". My question is , if you and your hippster buddies are so HARD why don't you try and go do some of your "art" on walls in Wilmette I'm sure they can afford to sandblast their homes or change panes of glass that you etch. Why do you have to come over here and fuck with our homes and businesses? Is it because you don't think its cool to lower your mommy and daddy's property value ,but its ok to damage some spiks home, his Chain link fence or his brick wall because, it's in the city? No, its because you don't care about his American dream , you only care about Your white picket fence and your Victorian home in Wilmette.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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