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Chicago’s Famous Paintings Are Becoming Pothole Mosaics Thanks To Artist Jim Bachor

Jim Bachor loved mixing highbrow art pieces with his mosaics-in-a-pothole style: "It's just a little bit of joy that you didn't expect in a ridiculous space."

Jim Bachor's new pothole mosaic creations: Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" and Van Gogh's "The Bedroom."
Jim Bachor
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CHICAGO — You don’t have to visit a museum to see some of the world’s most renowned paintings — you can spot them in Chicago’s potholes.

Local mosaic artist Jim Bachor is known for filling potholes with small, colorful mosaics. His latest street art series is called “Master pieces,” and it recreates famous artworks people ordinarily would see at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“There’s kind of an interesting juxtaposition there, of bringing masterpieces from a museum into the reviled pothole,” Bachor said. “That was kind of funny.”

Credit: John Domine
Chicago-based artist Jim Bachor hopes his mosaics bring “unexpected grins.”

There are four works in the series, each one inspired by a famous painting: Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Andy Warhol’s Chairman Mao and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Bachor chose pieces “relatively recognizable to the general public” and colorful enough that they stand out to passersby.

Each mosaic is in a different part of the city: at Green and Randolph streets in West Loop, Estes and Glenwood avenues in Rogers Park, in the 2000 block of West Crystal Street in Wicker Park and in the 4100 block of North Kostner Avenue in Old Irving Park.

Picking a pothole can be tricky, Bachor said. He used to find a pothole and make a mosaic to fit it, but by the time he was ready to install the art, the pothole would be filled, he said.

“I am completely at the mercy of the potholes,” Bachor said. “Finding good potholes is a pain in the ass. … I can’t just willy-nilly put them anywhere. I have to find stable potholes where the art will last a long time.”

The “Master pieces” mosaics reflect Bachor’s dry humor by highlighting the juxtaposition between highbrow and lowbrow art, he said.

“Street art is street art, and it isn’t necessarily considered terribly fine art,” he said. “But my art takes a ton of time.”

Bachor said if he were to sell his pieces from his studio as if they were fine art, he would charge about $3,500 per piece.

“So those are literally $3,500 pieces of art stuck in the ground,” he said.

Bachor said he reached out to the Art Institute of Chicago about the series — joking he’d like to get funding — but he has not heard back.

Like much of Bachor’s work, the latest mosaics bring something pretty to a place that otherwise could be considered ugly.

“Potholes aren’t attractive; everyone hates them,” Bachor said. “And then I’ll juxtapose them with maybe flowers because everybody loves flowers, or junk food because everyone loves junk food.”

Bachor said he hopes his art resonates with people and brings “unexpected grins.”

Bachor also hides a gift bag — filled with goodies including prints, magnets, keychains and coupons for his online shop — near every piece he creates. The bags are usually gone within about 30 minutes of completing an installation, he said.

“It’s just a little bit of joy that you didn’t expect in a ridiculous space,” he said.

Bachor’s art is generally stuck in the ground, but you can buy prints, merchandise and more online.

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