Don’t Fret has a graduation gift for the class of 2016: A reminder of the crushing debt that will likely follow many of them for decades. Don’t Fret’s latest mural echoes this recent headline from The Onion, envisioning college students as investment products, with the high cost of education driving them into debt, effectively garnishing their wages and making saving made next-to impossible.
Don’t Fret’s piece is part of a new series of murals organized by the Wabash Arts Corridor, an initiative of Chicago’s Columbia College. Most of the other murals in the project, while big and well-painted, are purely decorative. This is the only explicitly political piece, and perhaps the only piece where the artist took location into account. Don’t Fret’s mural is on the Roosevelt Hotel building, which is now student housing.
I’ve got to get credit to the Wabash Arts Corridor and Columbia College for commissioning this mural. It would have been easy to say, “We don’t want that conversation taking place on our buildings,” but you can be damn sure its taking place inside the building. Don’t Fret is an alumni of Columbia College and I’ve only ever heard him say positive things about the school, but the cost of higher education is a systemic issue across almost all American colleges and universities. This mural is a gentle, but important, reminder of that fact.
A note from RJ: I want to thank Dont Fret and Anna Cerniglia for putting this interview together. I’ve been a fan of Dont Fret’s work for a while, but since since latest show was really about a Chicago neighborhood that I’ve only very briefly visited, I asked him to find a local friend who might be able to have a conversation with about the project. Anna Cerniglia of Johalla Projects stepped up. Dont Fret has shown at Johalla Projects, and they helped put on his latest show, which is largely the subject of this conversation. A big thank you to both of them for letting me just step back on this one and do little to no work to read something really interesting. – RJ
Earlier this year, Dont Fret was given the opportunity to paint the walls of a building in Chicago’s Fulton Market. The building had previously housed a wholesale fish Market and a hardware Store, and with both businesses moving or closing, the building had been sold and was set for demolition in late August. Over the summer, Dont Fret painted the walls of the building and mounted a show inside the now-defunct hardware store entitled There Are Only Two Seasons In Chicago: Winter And Construction. The show featured a body of new work from Dont Fret, much of it made using materials found at the hardware store. The show was open for one week and then the hardware store was demolished on August 29th, 2014.
Anna Cerniglia: How have you been feeling after de-install of the show?
Dont Fret: I’m feeling pretty alright. People keep asking me if I’m bummed that the building is being torn down, but I am mostly just kind of in shock that we actually pulled off the show without anyone shutting us down. It kind of feels like the show hasn’t happened yet because we were in limbo for some time, there were just so many opportunities for something to go wrong.
AC: GOD RIGHT.
DF: How did you feel when I first showed you the inside of the hardware store? It was kind of a shit show.
AC: Well after helping produce an event in a similar space earlier this summer for Soho House, I wasn’t intimidated by the build-out. I was more intrigued with what we had to work with. The space earlier this summer I worked on was filled with refrigerators and ovens and all kinds of crap. It was storage. The hardware store was just a space frozen in time. I was afraid to touch it. It was amazing.
How about you?
DF: And what the show ended up being was really far removed from what we had originally planned. Originally I didn’t want to touch anything, I wanted all of the original shelves and storage to stay, I wanted almost a precise time capsule, and none of that ended up staying because of scrappers and other people who were salvaging things from the space.
AC: Yeah I think it was even better though. The amount of space was perfect for the time allotted. And even though we lost those shelves the space felt exactly the same. I had so many people say “this is the best show I have seen this year.” I think that says a lot. The space wasn’t a white cube and the artwork fit into this timeless space.
DF: I think so too. The first moment I set foot in the hardware store 4 months ago I knew I wanted to do a show in it. I haven’t done a solo show in a year and I knew that whatever my next show was, I didn’t want it to be in a traditional gallery space. I wanted to really create a moment and let the space live it’s life. Get closer to “real life” and maybe blur the line of what most people call a “pop-up art show.”
AC: Yeah – I have been hearing that term used so much recently. Where people take the white gallery cube and throw some wallpaper on it and call it a “pop-up.” But this was different.
DF: For me one of the best moments was when we re-painted and re-hung the “Chicago Wholesale Hardware” signage outside the shop and people started coming in asking if we could make keys for them or if we had Paint & Primer. We also set up a voicemail for the hardware store that people could call in and leave messages to. I think people were legit disappointed and confused that they couldn’t get keys made or order paint.
Chicago street artist Don’t Fret just launched a great little project. For $25, you can buy one of 50 scratch-off lotto tickets that Don’t Fret has painted on. Some of the tickets are loser tickets that have already been scratched, but what I love is that some are new tickets. You could have a winner under that artwork, and you’ll have to make the choice whether you’ll keep the painting intact or test you luck and scratch part of it away to a chance at big money. Plus, the artworks are being sent out randomly, so you can’t choose which one you’ll get.
Note from the editor: I know we here at Vandalog tend to neglect all the great things going on on the streets of Chicago, but hopefully this guest post by Terry Cartlon starts to make up for that. Terry visited Paint, Paste, Sticker, a show of work by street artists active in Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center. – RJ Rushmore
With all the Banksyness happening across New York’s five boroughs this month, it’s difficult to focus on any other art happenings in any other part of the world. Unfortunately here in Chicago, we’re used to doing our thing in The Big Onion only to finish second to The Big Apple. Fortunately, when you’ve got Chicago’s heaviest of hitters gathered at the cultural center for a lesson in Chicago street art, it helps soften the blow from the international spectacle occurring in that first city.
The architectural gem that is The Chicago Cultural Center houses something for The Second City to be proud of: Paint, Paste, Sticker encompasses quite the retrospective of Chicago street art history in one impressive room. Past, present, and future are all represented…and represented well.
Coming up the stairs or exiting the elevator on the fourth floor, attendees get greeted by Matthew Hoffman‘s worldwide wonder You Are Beautiful stone slab and Zore‘s Sheltered Bombing, a painted CTA bus shelter worth the time it takes to get downtown alone. Once inside, pieces from Slang, Don’t Fret, Nice One, Stefskills, C3PO, Kane One, and Radah flank the walls with collections from Galerie F and their Logan Square Mural Project ricocheting ideas and possibility in the city. Paint, Paste, Sticker takes us far north for the Rogers Park Participatory Budgeting project, down south for the South Shore Art Festival, and to the 25th Ward for Alderman Danny Solis’, Pawn Works‘, and Chicago Urban Art Society‘s Art in Public Places initiative. All three of these excellent projects have taken Chicago street art to the next level over the past year while showcasing international and local legends on the exterior walls in an attempt to put Chicago in the rightful spotlight.
Hebru Brantley shows off his prolific significance, Tselone and Jeff Zimmerman input their importance to the movement, and Ruben Aguirre’s masterful stylistics are on display in full harmony with Secret Sticker Club’s underrated sticker presence that is prevalent throughout Chicago.
The artistic talent in Chicago is undoubtedly the most underappreciated in the country, and this event has the potential to create the necessary influx/outflux relationship for artists to get the recognition they deserve. Seeing a large scale collection of accomplishments on display like this really puts it in perspective, and the excitement that this exhibition should ignite is what it’s all about. Chicagoans are some of the most precisely knowledgeable and honestly humble artists in the game with some of the highest standards for street art and graffiti you’ll ever see. Lucky for show-goers, those standards are put into action for everything on display.
Paint, Paste, Sticker does a thorough job of representing the who’s who and what’s what of the Chicago street art scene—a scene made up of interdisciplinary, intergenerational artists who transcend time, space, race, and class. If you miss this exhibit, you should kick your own ass…
Bit of a shorter link-o-rama this week. I’ve been with my parents in Colorado, trying to get some work done on my upcoming book. The hope is that Viral Art will be released for free online in mid-June. There’s still a fair bit of work left to do though. Anyway, the links…
Paul Insect and Sweet Toof have been getting up around London. It looks like his time spent with Bast while in NYC recently may have influenced him a bit, as some of Paul Insect’s work is in a more naive style reminiscent of Bast or Haring that I don’t think I’ve seen from him before. Looks good.
This year, Chicago-based street artist Don’t Fret made it down to Miami for Art Basel and the surrounding street art and graffiti free-for-all. Here are a few of his pieces from down there. Don’t Fret is funny, but not the kind of witty, buzz icon, media satire type of humor that I’m accustomed to seeing in street art. It’s nice to see an artist focusing more on a simple concept than on displaying talent, but also not really focusing on concept that much either. I don’t know how much of an artistic background Don’t Fret had before he started doing street art, but he’s been at this for a few years and he definitelyturnsheads.
Street Art Is Dead used to be a blog that mostly complained about the bullshit involved in street art. Now there’s a newish blog with that name that indiscriminately posts photos of street art despite quality.
While Vandalog and a lot of other art blogs have been focusing and will continue to focus on the murals that recently went up during Art Basel Miami, it’s worth noting that the streets also got plastered in posters. Unless otherwise noted, these images are by Mike Pearce, who has the best set of images of this year’s Miami street art extravaganza that I’ve seen so far. Here are some posters by Olive47, Vort, Don’t Fret, Clown Soldier, Clandestine Culture and others.