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Mauricio Ramirez combined images of a young boy and an Aztec eagle warrior in his “Pilsen Warrior Mural.” The mural at 1541 W. 18th St. is meant to portray evolution and to honor the iconic figure.
Mauricio Ramirez combined images of a young boy and an Aztec eagle warrior in his “Pilsen Warrior Mural.” The mural at 1541 W. 18th St. is meant to portray evolution and to honor the iconic figure.
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In Pilsen, an artist uses an iconic Aztec warrior figure to symbolize stages of life

Mauricio Ramirez says his ‘Pilsen Warrior Mural’ on the side of an apartment building at 1541 W. 18th St. is ‘all about the evolution.’

“It’s all about the evolution,” Chicago muralist Mauricio Ramirez says of his latest work, titled “Pilsen Warrior Mural.”

The mural, which spans the side of an apartment building at 1541 W. 18th St., features three brightly colored figures at different stages of life.

A young child gazes up at a teenage boy wearing a Mexican serape. And there’s an Aztec eagle warrior — a figure from the ancient culture, seen in an eagle headdress and carrying a decorated shield, who collected sacrifices for the gods, including Huitzilopochtli, the Mexican god of war, also often depicted as an eagle.

“I remember growing up, as an adolescent and toddler, I always looked up to my older cousins,” says Ramirez, 32. “I thought of them as my heroes. I was always wanting to be that age.”

The mural “talks about evolution and generations, how certain traditions get passed down,” he says.

Artist Mauricio Ramirez at his studio at Mana Contemporary in Pilsen.
Artist Mauricio Ramirez at his studio at Mana Contemporary in Pilsen.
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Starting out, Ramirez says, he leaned heavily on a graffiti-like style. He says he picked up other techniques from working side jobs as an industrial painter, doing things like painting planes.

Because the Aztec eagle warrior is common in Mexican culture — and as the logo of the airline Aeromexico — Ramirez says he was aiming to put his own spin on the image.

“I wanted to update it, to see what it would look like in 2021,” he says. “There’s a lot of mural artists out there that are doing cartoon-like artwork with hard lines or painting stuff very literally. I wanted to switch it up.”

Mauricio Ramirez says he used his signature “poly-wave” style for his “Pilsen Warrior Mural.”
Mauricio Ramirez says he used his signature “poly-wave” style for his “Pilsen Warrior Mural.”
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Ramirez says he divided the mural into triangular sections and left some of those spaces at street level open for passers-by to help paint.

“A lot of my approach to public art is getting the community involved,” he says. “For this mural, I wanted them to come out, to ultimately give them ownership of the work that’s going up.”

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