Artist says this mashup in a Pilsen mural of birds and feathers and a beam of light is about ‘paying attention to nature’
Mexican artist Rodrigo Oñate completed the project in 2020 with help from an art gallery that, years earlier, helped launch his career.
It might seem abstract, but Rodrigo Oñate, the artist who created the mural in 2020, says his message is straightforward.
“The mural talks about paying attention to nature,” says Oñate, who lives in Mexico and paints under the name Rocodrilo. “And keeping aneye on species, taking care of our natural surroundings.”
Teresa Magaña, executive director of the nonprofit Pilsen Arts and Community House, which curated the project, sees the message of the painting at 21st Street and Ashland Avenue a little differently.
“I have a take on it: keeping us together,” Magaña says.
Not just in the sense of the neighborhood pushing back against gentrification in Pilsen, which has been heavily Mexican American and working-class, but “keeping us cohesive,” she says.
“Those animals and creatures fuse together at some point,” Magaña says. “There’s a harmony.”
Oñate, 36, was born in Mexico, “but I’ve lived a great part of my life in the U.S. in different cities, like Minneapolis, Chicago and San Antonio. My grandparent on my dad’s side was born and raised in Pilsen by his immigrant parents from Spain. That’s the main reason I keep a tight relationship with the city of Chicago. Great part of my family lives there and love to be part of the beautiful Chicago art scene.”
“Right know, I live in Querétaro,” he says, “but I love to keep going back to Chicago for some seasons.”
Oñate says he met Magaña seven or eight years ago, “when they first opened the gallery space.” He says he showed up there and “showed my work, and we started to work together.”
Says Magaña: “He came in to the gallery and had his portfolio. We said, ‘Show us your work.’ It was beautiful. At that time, it was drawings. We were blown away.”
So the gallery, then located at 21st Street and Damen Avenue and now at 1637 W. 18th St., hosted an art show for him.
“We work with emerging talents and give them a chance,” Magaña says.
Magaña’s gallery found the wall for the mural and arranged things with the landlord.
Oñate, who completed the mural while visiting Chicago for another exhibition at the gallery, also has done several other murals around the city, including one at Superior Street and Western Avenue.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.