Locked down by COVID-19, Wicker Park Public Works Gallery returns for first exhibition in expansive new space

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WICKER PARK — An art gallery run by a design firm in Wicker Park is holding its first exhibition in its new building — two years after the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Works is the gallery and exhibition space of An odd pilot, a Chicago-based graphic design company for over two decades. The business and gallery previously stood above Dove’s Luncheonette, 1545 N. Damen Ave., in the heart of Wicker Park.

Just before the pandemic, the company purchased a large building at 2141 W. North Ave. to house its offices and exhibition space. The century-old building, which once housed architecture and photography studios, is a gallery and office space with a large open floor plan and massive windows overlooking North Avenue.

Credit: Provided
Art and clothing on display at Public Works, 2141 W. North Ave. at Wicker Park

The team members behind Someoddpilot and Public Works had hoped to hold exhibitions and other events in space starting in 2020, but COVID-19 derailed their plans.

“We found this building in 2019 and kind of sealed the deal before I had a heart attack – like everyone else did – when the lockdown happened here,” said the co- founder of Someoddpilot, Chris Eichenseer. “We still had the lease there. It felt like we were juggling the two, and this building was kind of sitting here for the pandemic.

Today, Public Works returns with the art exhibit that was scheduled to debut in March 2020. It’s titled “Ultraviolet Mythology” and features paintings, prints, videos and clothing by electronic artist Travis Egedy, which occurs as Pictureplane. The show opens April 1 and will run through June.

The mishmash of mediums and styles in the show is typical of a public works event, with a preference for artists and styles not typically found in galleries, Eichenseer said. This often emphasizes the visual arts found in skateboarding or music subcultures.

“It’s more accessible. People understand art… in the context of an album cover, a skateboard or a heavy metal t-shirt much more than they do in an art gallery. And then, at the same time, a lot of these artists are doing stuff that is totally wall-worthy,” Eichenseer said.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Chris Eichenseer and Danielle Pierre at the new Public Works gallery space in Wicker Park

Like many Public Works shows, “Ultraviolet Mythology” features clothing the studio created in collaboration with Egedy, which has its own line of streetwear. Designer Freddie Eschrich said clothing is a way to create a unique product that lasts beyond the duration of any given art exhibition.

“And it creates another one of those weird, ephemeral peripheral elements, where it sort of becomes a work of art, but it’s also a piece of clothing, so you wear it. I think that’s a good analogy for the same thing that’s going on here,” Eschrich said.

Someoddpilot staff view the new public works space as a work in progress and a way to preserve the arts scene that Wicker Park was once known for.

“One essential thing that Public Work ends up doing…it’s like channeling all of the Wicker Park that I grew up with,” Eichenseer said. “This DIY thing in Chicago, which has been overpriced in the neighborhood, and we can have it on the first floor, like 100%. So it really is a unique little opportunity.

The gallery team plans to collaborate with artists and creatives from the neighborhood and across the city, said manager Danielle Pierre. Once everything is up and running, they hope the space will host regular events on Friday nights into the early evening.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity to open up Public Works to more and bigger things, and that’s what we hope. I hope community members reach out to us when they need to find space for creative DIY collaborations. So that’s ultimately the goal,” Pierre said.

“Ultraviolet Mythology” opens at 7 p.m. on April 1 at Public works2141 W. North Ave. Travis Egedy will play a DJ set as Pictureplane later that night at Empty Bottle1035 N. Western Ave.

Credit: Provided
The new home of Someoddpilot and Public Works Gallery, 2141 W. North Ave. at Wicker Park

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