Nate Otto’s first mural, at Interior Define, 833 W. Armitage Ave.

Nate Otto’s first mural, at Interior Define, 833 W. Armitage Ave.

Provided

From Pilsen to Fulton Market, Nate Otto’s murals find beauty in the dense spaces of the city

The Beverly artist has six cityscape murals across Chicago, each unique to the area that surrounds it.

Cities within a city — that’s what muralist Nate Otto has created with his half a dozen murals throughout Chicago.

“You see these buildings around you at all times,” says Otto, 49.

He sees his murals as a way of “composing” the environments that Chicagoans live in and presenting those in his art.

In his latest piece in Fulton Market, a blue and green cityscape fits neatly into a rectangle 20 feet by 10 feet on an apartment building at 160 N. Elizabeth St.

Nate Otto’s latest mural — at Fulbrix Apartments, 160 N. Elizabeth St.

Nate Otto’s latest mural — at Fulbrix Apartments, 160 N. Elizabeth St.

Provided

About two miles away in Pilsen, similar silhouettes make up another cityscape, but this one shows a denser neighborhood portrayed in the colors of the Mexican flag — a nod to the community that makes up much of the area.

Otto says he has a catalog of about 20 different building shapes he uses throughout his pieces. But how he combines them is what makes each piece unique.

“The buildings are like the alphabet, and I build a language around that,” Otto says. “I’m able to experiment a lot using that as the foundation.”

Nate Otto’s Pilsen mural is his largest outdoor piece — 30 feet across by 90 feet tall.

Nate Otto’s Pilsen mural is his largest outdoor piece — 30 feet across by 90 feet tall.

Provided

The Pilsen piece, done in 2019, resembles most of his earlier murals. The city emerges from the bottom and the top of the painting, reflected by a blue sky with cartoon-like clouds floating through the center.

In the Fulton Market mural, the same types of buildings tell a different story — this one reflects the rapidly developing neighborhood it’s set in, with the nearby Chicago River snaking its way through the piece. Unlike Otto’s previous murals, it includes green space.

“I wanted it to be something that invoked the idea of open space,” he says. “Since that area has been so developed, there’s still snippets of the natural.”

Otto describes his style as “folk” and “lowbrow.”

Chicago muralist Nate Otto, 49, who’s known for his cityscape murals.

Chicago muralist Nate Otto, 49, who’s known for his cityscape murals.

Provided

“I’ve always been informed and influenced by self-taught artists and intuitive artists and people that weren’t necessarily steeped in the history of art,” Otto says. “I draw on a lot of that in my own work. Work that’s just not as influenced by art history as it is by intuition.”

He grew up in Deerfield but says he’s always been drawn to cities, moved to Chicago in 1997 and lives in Beverly.

Nate Otto’s all-blue cityscape at Two Mile Coffee in Beverly, his own neighborhood.

Nate Otto’s all-blue cityscape at Two Mile Coffee in Beverly, his own neighborhood.

Provided

“Cities are just the center of life,” Otto says. “The living, breathing aspect of the city is something that’s really attractive to me.”

He also has been commissioned to do work in businesses across the city — customers of Outside Voices in Logan Square find themselves sitting next to a cityscape mural of his that sprouts from the ground and spans the length of the outdoor patio.

Nate Otto’s murals can be found in businesses across the city, including this one that can be seen on the patio of Outside Voices in Logan Square.

Nate Otto’s murals can be found in businesses across the city, including this one that can be seen on the patio of Outside Voices in Logan Square.

Provided

“I think my work appeals to a broad audience,” Otto says. “That’s not something I set out to do, that’s kind of just a natural occurrence with my work. There’s nothing controversial about it.”

Murals and Mosaics Newsletter
Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where and send a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

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

The Latest
The soon-to-be 22-year-old forward struggled throughout most of the year, although he did at least improve his ability to move on from mistakes.
The man keeps trying to make plans to hang out, but his friends want nothing to do with him.
The swirl-patterned granite panels will contribute much to the visual identity of the tower — while perhaps adding color and life to a structure that appeared cold and mausoleum-like in renderings.
In fur and makeup, Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough spend most of the movie scratching, sneezing and worse.
The Hawks weren’t able to translate possession time into much tangible offense during a 3-1 loss Tuesday in Vegas.