Thursday, August 25, 2011
Polvo studio brushes the 'dust' off controversial art
By Rochelle S. Russo
Columbia Chronicle - Staff Writer
In the midst of the Chicago art community, Polvo Art Studio offers more than just wall space.
Polvo, or “dust” translated in English, is an alternative art studio in the Pilsen neighborhood that presents contemporary art, installations, new media, and performance mediums.
Located at 1458 W. 18th St., Polvo was created by Miguel Cortez, Jesus Macarena-Avila and Elvia Rodriguez-Ochoa due to the lack of alternative art spaces in Chicago.
“The majority of the galleries were restricted to wall space showing paintings or drawings as opposed to installations and alternative art,” Cortez said.
In search of an outlet to advance the alternative art community, Polvo was created in 1996 and recently moved into its new space in August of 2003.
Displaying somewhat controversial exhibits such as those in the current show,—“Under” by Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud, which is thematic to life and death, and the previous exhibit “Tu Casa Es Mi Casa” which was based on gentrification —fit into the untraditional realm that Polvo originates from.
Cortez said when he curates shows he looks at content. As long as they’re pushing it and it’s not just traditional art. I want something new, fresh and different.”
“Under” reflects the Haitian phrase “anba dlo” meaning “under the waters” that symbolizes water separating the living from the dead.
The first part of “Under” includes photographs of large-scale drawings of water-filled holes covering the earth. In addition to Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud’s images she will include a participatory piece entitled “nlangu,” which means “separated by water.” Members at the gallery are asked to place any item to represent their living self on one side and an item symbolizing the dead on the other side.
Polvo recruits a lot of its artists by using both the Internet and people off the street. There are usually one or two group shows a year held at Polvo such as the previous exhibit, “Tu Casa Es Mi Casa,” which explored the terrain of the gentrification process in hopes of awakening awareness within the Pilsen community.
“Gentrification is happening so fast to the Pilsen community people don’t have time to react,” said Hugo Michel-Hernandez, a Columbia faculty member and an artist whose work was previously on display at Polvo.
The purpose of “Tu Casa Es Mi Casa,” which ran March 19 through April 10, is to bring awareness to the people in the community.
“The people walking around the streets may not be aware of what’s happening. But they’re aware because they see the different crowd coming in slowly,” Cortez said. “The show is about awareness, because how can you stop gentrification?”
Some pieces from “Tu Casa Es Mi Casa” that document the gentrification process are Jesus Macarena-Avila’s series of real estate cards mimicking those of Century 21 Real Estate with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s headshot and text that reads, “Rich Daley 18th TIF [Tax Increase Financing] Specialist.”
Jaime Mendoza had an installation of a coffee cup dispenser with an image on the cup of a running family that represents the minority’s displacement due to urban renewal and text below the image that reads, “Invading one Barrio [neighborhood] at a time.”
Miguel Cortez was inspired to create a sticker of 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis that reads “Pilsen for Sale” after he read an article about a plan to build a high-end housing project in Pilsen.
Alderman Danny Solis and Concord Homes Inc., were collaborating to build 132 two bedroom, two bathroom condominium units within 13 buildings along 16th to 18th streets on Peoria Avenue that cost as much as $280,000.
“It was obvious who the target was for those condos; it wasn’t the labor families,” Cortez said.
The six-figure housing project was stopped due to the Pilsen Alliance which was able to attract 200 community resident protesters against the project.
Hernandez said it is a common theme for artists to be blamed when a neighborhood is gentrified. Artists seeking cheap rent are notorious for making the neighborhood hipper and safer.
“You see the changes really close to Pilsen,” Hernandez said. “When you get around UIC ... one week something’s knocked down and the next week something is up. Artists have always been blamed for this sort of phenomenon, but there are other issues around it.”
Hernandez said he fears all of the Chicago neighborhoods eventually turning into the same thing based around Starbucks and Dominick’s.
“Chinatown is next I think,” Hernandez said. “I went to school and I can make decent money. But some of these people can not do that, so where do they go?”
Besides opening receptions for new exhibits, Polvo is open for public viewing every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (773) 677-1914.
5 : : : P O L V O : : :: Archives: 2004 Polvo studio brushes the 'dust' off controversial art By Rochelle S. Russo Columbia Chronicle - Staff Writer In the midst of th...