Galerie F celebrates street art


Courtesy of Lou Foglia

Galerie F’s new exhibition, “Cut Along The Dotted Lines,” celebrates stencil art from three Chicago-based artists.

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

While street artists may not always get the recognition they desire, one Logan Square gallery is working to change that with its new exhibition, “Cut Along The Dotted Lines: A Three-Way Stencil Show.”

The show features Chicago-based street artists SARO, EPYON5 and Jason Rowland. Each artist incorporates stencils into his work in unique ways.

Billy Craven, co-owner of Galerie F, at 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave., said he wanted the show to celebrate stencil art, and the three artists were at the top of his list.

“We wanted to feature the works of these three artists because we really liked their aesthetics,” Craven said. “Each of them has their own point of view, and we thought they would pair nicely together.”

Craven, an established screen-printer, founded Galerie F with artist Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff and gallery director Allie Whalen through a May 2012 Kickstarter campaign. Craven said reaching out to his peers helped fund the gallery when no one else would invest.

“We felt strongly about a gallery like this, as there are so very few of them in the entire U.S. that feature printmaking and especially street art,” Craven said. “Just because there wasn’t one on every street corner didn’t mean that there couldn’t be one and that it couldn’t be successful.”

With Galerie F, Craven said he hopes to blur the line between street art and fine art. He said art should not be judged on its price but on personal preference.

“It doesn’t have to be $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 before it’s considered art,” Craven said. “At the end of the day, if it’s something you like and you want to hang it on your wall, I think that’s a good thing.”

Jason Rowland, one of the show’s featured artists who creates comic book-inspired stencil artwork, said he believes street art is slowly making its way into the mainstream formal art world, even if it is not immediately obvious.

“I was at McDonald’s with my kids the other day, and I noticed the artwork they had on their walls almost looked like a stylized version of stencil artwork. It’s just becoming part of the culture now,” Rowland said.

Although art critics are beginning to accept street art, it is still far from gaining universal acclaim in the fine art community, according to Craven.

“I have spoken about my gallery with older, more mature fans of art, and when they find out we feature printmaking or street art, I have had a person say, ‘Oh, so you don’t really feature art,’” Craven said.

Rowland said he is interested in the influx of street art into everyday life and how it has grown in popularity.

“As far as formal art goes, it’s always been represented by white-wall galleries,” Rowland said. “Street art comes from the streets. It’s interesting seeing the juxtaposition of formal and informal imagery. Street art is almost a language in itself, whereas traditional gallery stuff is always bowls of fruit and sunsets.”

EPYON5, a featured stencil artist in the exhibition, said he thinks social media has helped revolutionize street art.

“Years ago, you had all these people who would be tagging and putting up these murals in the dead of night,” EPYON5 said. “Now you can paint something and take a picture for social media. And the more that something is liked, the more acceptable it is.”

As recently as June, Galerie F was voted Chicago’s best established gallery and tied for the two best gallery exhibits, according to the Chicago Reader’s annual “Best of Chicago” poll. Craven said the publicity from the Reader helped broaden the gallery’s audience.

“It’s brought in a lot of new people,” Craven said. “If the Reader’s poll is voted on by our peers, it’s a good thing that that many people feel strongly about what we’re doing. It’s given us exposure to people that might never have walked through our door.”

The gallery’s recent shows have also benefited from the art scene in Logan Square. Galerie F is at the forefront of helping to commission local street artists for the murals seen throughout the neighborhood and helping the artists with supplied resources such as paint supplies and blank walls.

“Our goal is to get the street artist compensated for materials and earning a nice little wage for painting a mural,” Craven said. “Everything we’ve done up has been on our own and has come out of our pocket or out of the artist’s pocket.”

EPYON5 said he is already seeing changes in the way street art is being accepted into everyday life.

“I was walking through the city the other day and there in the middle of the day was [artist] JC Rivera doing a mural,” EPYON5 said. “It was awesome to see that, because 20 years ago, I don’t think you would see somebody doing a mural in the middle of the day in Chicago.”

“Cut Along The Dotted Lines” will run through Sept. 10.