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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reservoir Magazine

Polvo Gallery, Pilsen's hidden gem

By Frank Crist
contributing writer Reservoir Magazine


Forget the 18th Street Artwalk at Halsted - the real heart of Pilsen's emerging art scene is found tucked away in the interior.

When first entering Polvo Gallery at 18th and Laflin, one is reminded of an apartment cleared out to make a space to show art. The floors are rough. The walls are uneven. The heat is provided by an ancient gas furnace, which is plopped in the middle of the floor.(it is actually against the west wall and not in the middle of the floor.)

None of this comes as a surprise to Miguel Cortez, one of the three co-founders of Polvo, since he lives in the space.

Yet the rough interior does not speak to the talent that has come through the gallery. They've had shows by such emerging artists as Tracy Rose, current artist-in-residence at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town; Paola Cabal, a conceptual light and shadow artist; and virtual reality artist Hyunjoo Oh.

The gallery runs from 10 to 12 shows per year. Currently they're showing Erica Lord, a Native American artist who uses her heritage to work with "themes of race, ethnicity, and gender roles, as well as concepts regarding memory and the idea of home." Lord's work is provocative, such as her piece where she's gone to a tanning bed to appear darker, yet has covered parts of her body with phrases, which appear against her tanned skin. One phrase is across her chest: "I tan to appear more native." Another, down one thigh: "Colonize me."

The three founders of Polvo, Miguel Cortez, Elvia Rodriguez-Ochoa and Jesus Macarena-Avila, originally began by publishing a magazine 11 years ago. "Polvo Magazine" has been haunting the front windows of coffee shops and bookstores since 1996 and focuses on international artists and writers. Since then, they've had four different galleries (all in Pilsen), scores of artists' exhibitions and a dozen magazines. They've also received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and have established themselves as a not-for-profit.

Polvo Gallery is located at 1458 W. 18th St. (entry on Laflin). Hours are Saturdays, noon - 5 p.m., or by appointment. Polvo can be found on the web at http://polvo.org.

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