Posters reflect city’s multiple identities

By Sophia Coleman

Sometimes it can be hard to fathom how vast and diverse the city is, but a Columbia alumnus who majored in graphic design has the perfect remedy.

Chris Gorz, who graduated in 1991, started his Chicago poster series almost one year ago with the mission to create iconic and vintage-inspired prints that help locals connect with their communities. So far, he has designed eight posters for Andersonville, Edgewater, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Rogers Park, Uptown and Bucktown.

“At Columbia, I really learned about the foundational aspects of graphic design,” Gorz said. “I was taught how to combine shapes, color, typography and images all together to make people react or feel something.”

Gorz said he has a passion for three things: art, architecture and Chicago. He said he noticed during walks around the city’s many neighborhoods that each had its own iconic landmark that captured the history of the area.

He said his interest in Chicago’s history was sparked while at Columbia, in particular by one of his Humanities, History and Social Sciences professors, Dominic Pacyga, a faculty member since 1984 who teaches the course History of Chicago.

“I enjoy the fact that [Gorz’s] art shows the everyday feel of the neighborhood,” Pacyga said. “Each one of Chicago’s neighborhoods—there are 200 of them—are really unique. For an artist to go and find an icon that can symbolize each community is really interesting.”

Since Gorz is from Andersonville, he said he started the series with neighborhoods in his own backyard. The bordering communities were familiar to him, so it was easy to pick out icons for Edgewater and Lincoln Square. He said he takes time exploring less fa miliar areas through biking or going on walking tours with the Chicago

Architecture Foundation.

Gorz first created the Uptown poster using an image of the local post office at 4850 N. Broadway St., iconic for its 1930s art-deco architecture and two massive eagle sculptures.

“The government just doesn’t build buildings like that anymore,” he said. “So I decided to use that as the icon of the first poster, and I did it in a vintage style that’s similar to travel [posters] or Works Progress Administration artwork.”

WPA artwork began in the 1930s during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt and was one of his most successful New Deal programs, aimed at giving jobs to unemployed artists during the Great Depression. During this time, graphic artists produced posters to publicize health and safety information and promote government projects.

Gorz’s most recent poster of Bucktown features the profile of a goat.

“Bucktown was the first neighborhood I did that I didn’t have an iconic image for,” Gorz said. “I’ve used buildings or sculptures [to represent] most of the communities. But with Bucktown, I looked to its history.”

Gorz said the people of Bucktown could identify with the goat because settlers in the 1800s raised goats on the grassland of that area.  As the town started to grow in the 1900s, goats no longer roamed the prairies but stayed in the homes. Eventually, the neighborhood was named Bucktown after the male goat, called a buck.

Gorz’s work is sold in a number of boutiques across Chicago, including ShopColumbia in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave. His pieces can also be found at Sacred Art, 4619 N. Lincoln Ave., a mix between a gallery and boutique that sells the work of local artists.

Lisa Muscato, a buyer and curator for Sacred Art, said she first decided to sell Gorz’s posters approximately a year ago when he began the series.

She said one of her favorites is the Ravenswood poster, which features the clock tower of the Deagan building at 1770 W. Berteau Ave.

“When [I] first saw his work, I immediately knew that his iconic imagery and bold use of color would grab the attention of both locals and tourists,” Muscato said.

Gorz just finished the Lincoln Park poster, which he said would be available in early May. The next neighborhoods he is designing for are Gold Coast, Old Town, Wicker Park and Logan Square.

He added that he would like to do a South Loop poster by the end of the year in homage to his time spent at Columbia.

“My goal would be to do as many neighborhoods as I can,” Gorz said. “I want to create posters of these images to connect everyone more deeply with

their community.”