A report by KT Hawbaker for the Chicago Tribune.
Crossing the Paseo and the globe in one show
Public art marks either end of Paseo Boricua, the slice of Division Street between Western and California avenues where Chicago’s Puerto Rican community holds court. Installed by former Humboldt Park Alderman Billy Ocasio in 1995, two enormous steel Puerto Rican flags make iconic welcome signs for the neighborhood — and, in light of the island’s recent hurricane and its president’s disturbing response, they also express a galvanizing materiality.
Ocasio still spearheads the neighborhood’s thriving art scene and currently serves as CEO of the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. In a collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the museum is exhibiting “Galeria Chicago,” a bicultural show that centers on abstraction as a transcendent language. The gallery moves through both time and space, pulling from the Ukranian art institute’s permanent collection of 1950’s and ’60s artwork while the Puerto Rican museum stirs in contemporary Puerto Rican artists living or working in Chicago.
“We’re so close to each other and thought this would be a great chance to highlight our local artists,” says Ocasio. The show aims to reflect Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park’s legacies as neighbors. Artists include Wasyl Kacurovsky, the Ukrainian institue’s first curator, and Edra Soto, whose solo show is now debuting the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Commons Artist Projects.
“Galeria” was initiated by the Chicago Cultural Alliance’s “Inherit Chicago,” an intercultural festival working against the city’s pervasive history of segregation. Past programming has included the Muslim American Leadership Alliance, the American Indian Center and Southside Together Organizing for Power.
“In spite of the city’s economy, Humboldt Park is recognized as a location for local artists, and we welcome them,” Ocasio continues. “Public art will continue to grow, and it’s up to government to decide whether or not they grow with us.” Through June 29, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, 3015 W. Division St.; www.nmprac.org