Things are constantly changing in a city like Chicago. Due to urban development and gentrification, neighborhoods all over the city look drastically different now than they did even one year ago.
Galerie F has been a fixture in the rapidly transforming Logan Square neighborhood, and its continued presence there is something to celebrate. Their current show, “Street Level,” is just that sort of celebration.
As their fourth anniversary exhibition, “Street Level” is described on the gallery’s blog as “a big THANK YOU to everyone who is involved with Galerie F and has helped to foster a space for the promotion, collaboration, and encouragement of poster and street artists in Chicago.”
Galerie F’s press and marketing manager, Sarah Wheat, was able to discuss how this exhibition differs from the gallery’s past three anniversary shows. (Wheat also works for F Newsmagazine.)
“The first three anniversary shows that we had were printmaking shows because Galerie F really pushes their position as the premiere gallery space in Chicago for poster art and art prints. It was really about time that we dedicate our anniversary show to street art. JC Rivera is an artist that has been with the gallery since the very beginning, hence his work being the centerpiece of the show,” Wheat said.
Marrying a fun, colorful, pop-aesthetic with the grounded grittiness of street art, Galerie F specializes in taking the sort of work one might find in a neighborhood mural and putting it in the context of a gallery setting. This provides a nice balance and variety with the extensive selection of gig posters, prints, and art posters.
With an array of mixed media works, the current show has a lot to offer. The art works explore a range of subject matters from pop culture figures to depictions of CTA cars, as well as original characters such as the yellow bear figure “the Bear Champ,” a recurring figure in Rivera’s work.
The show’s title, “Street Level,” is also appropriate, given the passion co-owner Billy Craven has for, as Wheat puts it, “Legitimizing the presence of street art and murals in the area.”
“The whole Milwaukee Avenue area between Western and Fullerton […] is basically curated by Billy, and the artists that he knows and works with regularly,” said Wheat.
For a neighborhood like Logan Square that is visibly bearing the brunt of a struggle with gentrification, it is encouraging to see a gallery exhibition featuring artists from the community whose work is so intrinsically tied to the spirit of that community.
Four years ago, Craven and Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff started Galerie F. According to their blog post about the “Street Level” show, their goal in starting the gallery was “[to] create a space that was open six days a week, where walk-ins were welcome, and that was available to any art lover’s wallet size.”
Right in the heart of Logan Square, Craven and Tasseff-Elenkoff have done just that, fulfilling their “hopes of cementing accessible art such as printmaking and street art into the local, contemporary art scene while promoting both local and international artists.” “Street Level” features such artists, and benefits from a close community.
As for how Galerie F will be following through on their commitment to the artistic community of Chicago and Logan Square specifically, Wheat mentioned that the gallery is continuing with their community-oriented programming.
“We are moving forward by hosting community events and improving our community involvement with a robust variety of experiences with the gallery — bigger, better and with more heart,” she said.
“Street Level” will be running through July 31. Galerie F is one of the only galleries in Chicago open six days a week, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.