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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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Sixty Inches from Center Thu Sep 15 2011

Street Art Approval


This article was originally published on Sixty Inches from Center on Sept. 5. This is the first of a series of content exchanges with them.

By Zachary Johnson


Last week, while exploring Chicago's Polish Village, I interrupted my friend mid-sentence as a familiar sight came into view. "Another one!" I exclaimed. Quickly, we crossed Milwaukee and headed towards a wall featuring the street art of Mental 312. Mental's thick, blue lines were similar to his other pieces: bold and expansive, almost Aztec in their geometric style. I didn't know how old the piece was, but judging from what I've observed of Mental's other works, it may have been around for a while. What strikes me about the pieces is that people don't seem to mind them. The ones that first went up last winter along the Garfield and Indiana Green Line Stations are still there, and those at the Sheridan and Bryn Mawr Red Line stops have stayed up for months as well. In fact, the Bryn Mawr piece looks even older, as if it's been around for years.

The piece in Polish village was yet another work that people didn't seem to mind. The brick wall it's featured on had been painted with the familiar brown color business owners use to cover up tags. Yet Mental's piece remained untouched. The fact that many of his walls are not covered up with paint or tags speak to the fact that people in Chicago enjoy his work - at least, enough not to defile them.

Street artists don't receive much formal acclaim. They are not the focus of solo exhibitions, museum collections, or interviews. Most people don't even know their names. Instead, perhaps their highest validation comes when their works are not painted over. By leaving street art untouched, people send out the message that the pieces are appreciated and valued. After all, street art is one of the most public types of art today. Rather than art that sits indoors where we have to come and find it, street art appears outside, coming to find us during our daily routines. It has the power to brighten our days and, at times, inspire us. Looking at Mental's street art month after month, I'm glad there are others out there who appreciate his work enough to let us enjoy it for a bit longer.

For other sightings of Mental 312′s work in Chicago, click here.

[Flickr Slideshow]

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Kelly Reaves / September 15, 2011 12:38 PM

I believe there is a big one of the side of a building on the north side of 3100 W. Chicago Ave. that I've been admiring for months.

spudart / September 16, 2011 11:05 AM

There's something good to be said about artwork that fits in with the environment. (A subtle poke at artwork that is more about peeing on turf than about fitting in).

And then there is artwork that challenges, rather than fits in. We don't want to forget about that. There are some street artists that make work that challenges us, and it gets removed for standing out too much. But actually, that type of work seems to be rare too.

What seems to happen most of the time is that people want to mark their area, and i'm not just talking about gang taggers, I'm also talking about artists.

As a street artist myself, I hope my work is uplifting and non-destructive. I know most of my fellow street artists don't agree on the non-destructive part, but whatevs. That's just my own perspective. But I find it funny when people complain about their destructive work being painted over.

Aside from that, there is something very culturally interesting about Mental 312's work and how it strikes a fine balance of acceptance and outlawness. There is one of his works in my neighborhood in Lincoln Square (at Lawrence and Hoyne). I appreciate his work.

spudart / September 19, 2011 10:02 AM

My thoughts aren't really explained all that well here. I rewrote them as a blog post:

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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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