WICKER PARK — An art gallery run by a Wicker Park design firm is holding its first show in its new building — two years after the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Works is the gallery and exhibition space of Someoddpilot, a graphic design firm that’s been based in Chicago for more than two decades. The firm and gallery were previously above Dove’s Luncheonette, 1545 N. Damen Ave., in the heart of Wicker Park.
Right before the pandemic, the company bought a large building at 2141 W. North Ave. to house its offices and exhibition space. The century-old building, once home to architecture and photography studios, is a gallery and office space with a large open floor plan and massive windows facing North Avenue.
The team members behind Someoddpilot and Public Works had hoped to hold exhibitions and other events in the space starting in 2020, but COVID-19 derailed their plans.
“We found this building in 2019 and just kind of sealed the deal before I had a heart attack — as everyone else did — when lockdown happened here,” said Someoddpilot co-founder Chris Eichenseer. “We still had the lease over there. It was like we were juggling both, and this building kind of just sat here for the pandemic.”
Now, Public Works is returning with the art show that was supposed to debut in March 2020. It’s called “Ultraviolet Mythology” and features paintings, prints, video work and apparel from electronic artist Travis Egedy, who performs under the name Pictureplane. The show opens April 1 and runs until June.
The mish-mosh of mediums and styles in the show is typical of a Public Works event, with a preference for artists and styles not typically found in gallery settings, Eichenseer said. That often includes an emphasis on visual art found in skateboarding or music subcultures.
“It’s more accessible. People understand art … in the context of an album cover or skate deck or a heavy metal T-shirt a lot more than they do a fine art gallery. And then, at the same time, a lot of these artists are making stuff that’s completely worthy of being on the wall,” Eichenseer said.
Like many Public Works shows, “Ultraviolet Mythology” features apparel the studio created in collaboration with Egedy, who has his own streetwear line. Designer Freddie Eschrich said the clothing is a way to create a unique product that lasts beyond the span of any given art show.
“And that creates another one of these weird peripheral kind of pieces of ephemera, where it kind of becomes a piece of art, but it’s also it’s also apparel, so you wear it. I think that is a good analogy for the same thing that’s happening here,” Eschrich said.
The staff at Someoddpilot see the new Public Works space as a work in progress and a way to preserve the artistic scene Wicker Park was once known for.
“A critical thing Public Work ends up doing … it’s like channeling all of the Wicker Park that I grew up with,” Eichenseer said. “That DIY Chicago thing, that’s been priced out of the neighborhood, and we can have that on this first floor, like 100 percent. So it’s really a special little unique opportunity.”
The gallery team plans to collaborate with artists and creatives in the neighborhood and across the city, manager Danielle Pierre said. Once things get up and running, they hope the space will host regular Friday night events in the early evenings.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity to open Public Works up to more and bigger things, which is what we’re hoping for. I’m hoping that people in the community will reach out to us when they need to find a space for DIY creative collaborations. So that’s ultimately the goal,” Pierre said.
“Ultraviolet Mythology” opens 7 p.m. April 1 at Public Works, 2141 W. North Ave. Travis Egedy will perform a DJ set as Pictureplane later that night at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: