A mural in the Fulton Market district by the Pilsen artist who goes by the name Sentrock depicts a cardinal as a symbol of freedom and hope for Chicago.

A mural in the Fulton Market district by the Pilsen artist who goes by the name Sentrock depicts a cardinal as a symbol of freedom and hope for Chicago.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Pilsen artist Sentrock’s Fulton Market mural offers a chance to escape

‘I had a lot of family members . . . in and out of prison. So, for me, that was my mental escape, signified through the idea of a bird being free.’

Joseph Perez, the Pilsen artist known as Sentrock, means for his art to offer an escape.

Murals

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.

His style is inspired by his favorite cartoons and the culture of Chicago’s Little Village and Pilsen communities.

Consider “Embrace These Moments,” the mural he painted last fall outside an events venue at 1215 W. Fulton Market. Awash in primary colors, it pictures a man, in a red cardinal mask, in a yellow sweatshirt and pastel pink sweatpants who’s cradling a cardinal — a signature feature Sentrock says he includes in most of his work.

The artist, 35, says the bird mask “symbolizes freedom.”

“Growing up, I had a lot of family members — my father, brother, uncles — in and out of prison,” he says. “So, for me, that was my mental escape, signified through the idea of a bird being free. So I just put that mask on as a person, someone who wanted to be free to fly away.”

He says the cardinal in the man’s arms represents Chicago, the fiery red bird a symbol of keeping the city’s “flame alive.” He says he wants people who see the mural to feel “a sense of hope” as the city deals with the pandemic and all manner of political polarization.

“I think that’s why street art is so important, because it’s a direct communication with the everyday person,” he says.

Big block letters behind the man in the mural spell out “Chicago.”

“I painted in a lot of big cities like New York, L.A., Miami,” Sentrock says. “It’s very rare that you find a city that can match the same energy as Chicago.”

The artist known as Sentrock works on his mural last fall in the Fulton Market district.

The artist known as Sentrock works on his mural last fall in the Fulton Market district.

Josh Mandell

He got his start with art doing graffiti as a teenager and likes the fast-paced nature of street art. This particular piece was commissioned on a Thursday last September and done by that Monday.

“People that work in the area went home Friday, came back Monday, and there’s a big mural on the side of a building,” Sentrock says.

Just a few feet away on an intersecting wall is “BREEZY,” a mural by artist Jas Petersen filled with neon colors and a larger-than-life woman with flowers and skyscrapers. Petersen says she wants the mural to evoke nostalgia of driving with windows down on a warm Chicago night.

She says the mural showcases “Chicago in the most beautiful time.”

Artist Jas Petersen’s mural is located next to Sentrock’s Fulton Market mural.

Artist Jas Petersen’s mural is located next to Sentrock’s Fulton Market mural.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Commissioned by the All Star Press art gallery, Sentrock’s mural launch coincided with The Other Art Fair, which hosts shows in cities including London and Melbourne.

The gallery helped curate the art fair in Chicago, showcasing works by Sentrock and two other artists: Kelly Knaga and Griffin Goodman.

All Star Press owner Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff says the previously blank wall at the venue space was “calling out for a beautiful mural” and Sentrock was a natural choice to paint the mural. The two have known each other and collaborated for about a decade.

The mural was funded in part by Threadless, a Chicago digital art shop.

He says Sentrock pretty much was handed free rein in deciding the theme for the mural.

“I’m not trying to be a realist,” Sentrock says of the piece’s vibrant colors. “I’m not trying to do a portrait. I’m trying to create a different reality. When I do my work, I want it to be an escape.”

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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