Bombs go “KABOOM.” Artistic explosions go “CABOOM” — as in CAB, a graffiti crew that’s operated in Chicago for decades, and BOOM as in what happens when the group descends on a space to create a splashy piece of public art.
Like the work you can see across from Marshall High School on the West Side, where artists affiliated with CAB painted a sprawling mural in 2019 on the side of a three-story building at Kedzie and Fifth avenues.
It features the word “CABOOM” and intricate images of superheroes within the letters. Captain America. Hulk, Iron Man. Black Panther. Thor. Rocket Raccoon.
The project aimed to bring the crew together — its members often work solo — and showcase their collective artistic skills. They also wanted to inspire young people in the neighborhood.
“We wanted to give something to the kids to enjoy,” says the 42-year-old graffiti artist who goes by Werm and lives in West Lawn.
He painted the “C” and “M” in the mural as well as Captain America and Thor.
Werm says the crew has done several CABOOM paintings but that this is “the only one still up.”
HateK 312, who is part of CAB, painted the first “O” and Iron Man. He says doing art like this in “underrepresented neighborhoods” shows young people they can find creative outlets.
“I’d rather have a kid pick up spray paint than a gun,” he says. “We like to give kids another option, let them know there’s another option.”
A CAB member who goes by DTeK says he knew someone from the building and got permission to paint the wall.
“It’s a good thing for the kids,” says DTeK, who’s 37 and lives in Cicero.
While the crew was painting, he says, “All the kids were at the windows” at Marshall watching.
DTek says too many kids in Chicago “grow up so rough” and “don’t know what they want to be in life.” He says he hopes the murals might help them see “you can do anything” and that “heroes are around.”
“We’re all pretty good in our crew,” says DTeK, who painted the “A” and Rocket Raccoon. “We don’t hang out a lot, but, when we do, we just transform.”
HateK, who is in his 30s and lives in Little Village, decided to do Iron Man because “of his style, his aesthetics” and because “he’s technologically advanced.”
His aim was to “make the kids go, ‘Wow.’ ”
The 36-year-old street artist known as Mr. Laylo painted the “B” and the giant green Hulk.
“The theme was the Avengers super eroes, and we just got together and randomly picked who we wanted to do,” says Mr. Laylo, who grew up in Chicago and Cicero but recently moved to Canada. “Werm already had Captain America, and I had a big ‘B’ to fill. It was pretty cool.”
The artist who goes by GNEE painted the second “O” and Black Panther — “definitely one of my favorites.”
GNEE, who is 47 and lives in Englewood, says he liked that Marshall kids could watch the mural come to life.
“That’s always cool for people to see live art happening,” he says. “They think it’s magic. But it takes hard work.”