Artist’s work at Art on theMART is a love letter to 79th Street, Black culture

Jasmin Taylor’s “Trap Moulin Rouge” performance piece is among the projections featured on the facade of the Merchandise Mart.

SHARE Artist’s work at Art on theMART is a love letter to 79th Street, Black culture
“Trap Moulin Rouge” by Jasmin Taylor is projected onto the Merchandise Mart. The performance piece will run at Art on theMART until November 18.

“Trap Moulin Rouge” by Jasmin Taylor is projected onto the Merchandise Mart. The performance piece will run at Art on theMART through Nov. 18.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

When people see Jasmin Taylor’s “Trap Moulin Rouge” exhibit at Art on theMART, she wants them to then make the trip to 79th Street in Gresham, which is prominently featured in her projection performance piece.

“I want them to see it and figure out more ways to connect to the South Side of Chicago with the resources that downtown to the North Side get,” Taylor, who calls herself a “South Side Gir,l” said. “I want them to see it and put money into art centers [on the South Side]. Do you know there’s not one arcade on the South Side? Because Black people don’t like to play games? People don’t think Black people are worthy of leisure.”

Her Art on theMART work has been a year in the making. After submitting her concept and making a sample video for the call for entries from Chicago artists, she was chosen to be a commissioned artist, along with artist Yuge Zhou, whose work is also featured in the nighttime projections on the facade of the Merchandise Mart. Taylor also performs in her video with three other dancers.

“I think it’s really important to note that I’m showcasing, but I’m also sharing,” she said. “There’s a difference between performing and practicing. I am sharing the vibrant culture that emanates from not only the South Side of Chicago but specifically 79th Street and the Black and brown people that live there and how that culture that emanates from this area dominates Chicago and world culture.”

Jasmin Taylor, creator of Trap Moulin Rouge stands across the river of the Merchandise Mart as her piece is projected on the Chicago landmark.

Jasmin Taylor, creator of “Trap Moulin Rouge” stands across the river from the Merchandise Mart as her piece is projected on the Chicago landmark.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times

The multidisciplinary artist’s project is the first to be exhibited at the Mart to have a 95% Black and 100% female production crew.

Taylor’s exhibit, though it broadly features the South Side, specifically spotlights 79th Street.

That area “gets a bad rap,” she said. “It used to be a strip of so many bustling Black businesses and camaraderie and joy. It’s yet another street in the city that’s underfunded, under-resourced, forgotten about and oppressed. So, yes, I’m a South Side Chicagoan, and I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but I own a home on 79th Street. This is where I have decided to place my roots in the city of my birth.”

Taylor’s work takes inspiration from the Black and South Side culture she grew up with, which is reflected in everything from the dances to the dancers’ nails and hair.

“Being frank, like everybody wears nails now and it’s professional and cool, and Black people have been doing that forever. It didn’t get okay in the workplace until white people started doing it,” she said. “So just having these displays of culture on the side of [the Mart] and it being ours — for us, on us, to show us — was of the utmost importance to me.”

You might spot the Chicago flag on belts on the dancers’ belts. The top hat Taylor wears in the performance has drumsticks on it, a nod to the bucket boys who drum on 79th Street.

With her choreography, Taylor wanted to show ballet isn’t the only acceptable and beautiful form of dance.

“I think that we can do away with this Eurocentric standard of what art is and what dance is,” she said. “So in classic Chicago and South Side styles, there are life forms of dance like juking,and just cultural dance that Black people do.”

The seven-minute projection also takes inspiration from the 2001 film “Moulin Rouge” and combines classical, R&B and jazz melodies.

Taylor said she’s working on projects including an album and a production as part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s LookOut series that’s slated for for January.

“Trap Moulin Rouge” can be viewed nightly at the Merchandise Mart, from the Chicago Riverwalk and along Wacker Drive between Orleans and Wells, through Nov. 18 as part of Art on theMart.

Mariah Rush is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

The Latest
Some major donors signaled their distress about Biden staying in the race by declining to write more checks or host events. That concern dissolved within hours of Harris becoming the presumptive Democratic 2024 nominee, with no rival coming forward.
The men were in the backyard of a home Monday afternoon in the 4100 block of West Cermak Road when someone opened fire about 3 p.m., Chicago police said.
White Sox have multiple trade chips, but catcher Lee doesn’t figure to be one of them
Veteran comedian and part-time Chicagoan stays in the game with the recent ‘Mean Girls’ movie and a team performing this weekend at iO Fest.
Letter carriers are demanding police find the killer of Octavia Redmond, a 48-year-old grandmother and wife to a fellow letter carrier. A $250,000 reward has been offered in the case.