UPTOWN — A shrine to some of the city’s most coveted possessions during the coronavirus outbreak has debuted in Uptown. To find it, you’ll have to keep your head down.
Chicago-based mosaic artist Jim Bachor has created new works in his pothole street art project, with four mosaics taking the place of potholes in Uptown. The new works, located on Gunnison Street just west of Broadway, are meant as lighthearted takes on three things people have stocked up on during the pandemic: toilet paper, hand sanitizer and booze.
The mosaics depict a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of Purell and a can of Old Style, each depicted with halos. Such items have been in limited supply as Americans stocked up amid the pandemic or — as in the case of the beer can — because they’re a product people have relied on for solace during this unprecedented time.
“People are adoring these things, and everyone is drinking more these days,” Bachor said. “It’s a universal thing that everyone can relate to.”
The fourth mosaic depicts a star from the Chicago flag, meant to generate civic pride, Bachor said.
Bachor’s work is based on the ancient style of mosaic art, with bright tiles assembled to depict people and things in a religious or reverent way. In this case, the subject of the art is everyday items and the canvas is an asphalt street. The juxtaposition is meant to bring a smile to passersby and bring art to unexpected places, Bachor said.
The pothole art project began in 2013, starting in Chicago and expanding to 85 mini-mosaics in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Italy and the Netherlands. Potholes are universal in nature in that they happen in all locations and are despised by drivers everywhere. Bachor likes to fill potholes with images of other universally recognized items, including Cheetos bags and crushed beer cans.
Bachor said he wanted to reference the coronavirus outbreak in a funny, lighthearted way.
“It’s an opportunity for an unexpected grin,” he said. “You see something there and it’s mildly funny.”
For the coronavirus-themed art, Bachor put a call out to friends and fans to tell him of potholes in need of filling. Someone sent a picture of Gunnison Street, where four potholes were clustered together and were the perfect proportions for the mosaics, Bachor said.
This is the first time the pothole mosaics are clustered so closely.
“I’ve always done one one-offs,” Bachor said. “All four were well-defined, and the street seemed relatively stable. I couldn’t do one and leave three potholes there.”
Bachor installed the Uptown pothole art late last week. He was joined by a camera crew from CBS Sunday Morning, which will air a segment on the project.
The installations were fun to work on — even if someone prematurely drove over the Old Style mosaic, damaging it in the process, Bachor said.
“I like being pleasantly surprised in an unexpected way,” he said. “Hopefully this does that.”
For more information on Bachor’s pothole installations, click here.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.