Photo by JoeM500
As some of you may have heard, last Saturday night, on June 14th, the Chicago based street artist SOLVE was brutally – and senselessly – murdered in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood.
Brendon Scanlon (SOLVE) was much beloved and admired by the Chicago street art and graf community, and his loss leaves a deep whole in all of our hearts.
SOLVE had an incredible influence on the Chicago scene and helped a lot of young artists get their start.
Our hearts and thoughts are with Brendon’s family and loved ones.
Chicago won’t be the same without him.
Discussions and wishes can be found here.
Chicago’s street art community lost one of its brightest talents over the weekend when Brendan Scanlon, AKA Solve, was murdered in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood. Solve’s work was up all over the city bringing bright colors to traffic signal control boxes, positive affirmations to sign posts and a range of other characters, images and messages displayed on paste-ups, boards, stickers and stencils on walls, signs and newspaper boxes.
A suspect is currently in custody for the tragic crime, and the close-knit street art scene is memorializing Solve with tribute pieces showing up around town, and at a quickly established installation at Grand and Milwaukee Avenues. Besides his own pieces, Solve frequently collaborated with other Chicago artists and helped many newcomers step up their game from scribbled tags to complex print techniques and through-provoking concepts.
What follows is an excerpt from an interview Solve gave a few years back to frequent collaborator Swiv for use in a book on contemporary street art interspersed with pics of some of Solves work from streets and galleries around Chicago.
What’s your typical medium?
Solve: When I started doing “street art”, the definition of street art where it’s graffiti in a non-traditional form, it was just little stickers here and there, and that was a few years ago now. And then I started doing stencils, I was doing this little two-color stencil guy, and I was doing him for quite awhile, and then I got kind of sick of spray paint fumes, and the illegality of carrying cans around, not to mention the difficulty in obtaining them, and their cost. They’re pretty expensive for a poor artist type. So then I started doing paste-ups, and stuff. I was stenciling on paper, and then pasting the paper up. So then I could do more intricate stencils, like four-color stencils, and not have to carry around a big ridiculous bag of stencils. And also, I could do larger size stencily things. But then I learned how to screen print, and started doing a lot of screen-printing, and now I use various mediums, but it almost always ends up being a paste-up. When it starts getting cold out I do more boards, because my paste doesn’t work
What message do you want your art to portray?
Solve: Well, each kind of image or piece I do tends to have a different message, I guess. A lot of the messages aren’t very direct, I try to be sort of esoteric and leave it open to interpretation. The messages are usually taken from stuff I see around, like in the news or my perceptions of the world, some problem that I perceive, and I usually make a thing about that. I don’t have any answers, I don’t think any of my pieces give an answer, they just present a problem, I guess. I also was doing those polka dot box things for awhile, which I should do more of, but haven’t done in awhile, they’re just so ridiculous. I love the idea of this completely ridiculous thing in the middle of the city. Because the city is so serious, people are going and doing their business, and you have to rush from here to there… I think it’s kind of a stop and smell the flowers thing, like hopefully people will stop and get a smile out of it.
Do you wanna tell me more about those boxes?
Solve: They’re street lighting boxes, is what they are. You probably have a picture of them. They’re little boxes on a pole, and they control when the lights go. It started one day when there was one at the end of my alleyway that I had done some paste-ups on, and Swiv had done some paste-ups on, and I had put some stickers on, and they had been half peeled off, and there was a bunch of tags on it, and it was starting to look really… bad. And I had to walk by it every day on my way out, and one day I was like “ok, that’s enough”, and I just decided to go paint over it. So I painted it this bright green color, and I thought it was kind of boring, I wanted to add something to it. So what’s a pattern that doesn’t really carry any meaning or weight behind it? Polka dots! So I polka-dotted some pink polka dots on it, and I was like “wow, this is really cool!” Then I went out, I think that same day, and painted another one. And it just went from there, I just started going out and painting them here and there.
What would you say is your main motivation for doing street art?
Solve: You know…. I just do it. I don’t know why. There’s not really any financial gain, there’s no mainstream logical reason why anyone would do street art or graffiti. I think it kind of was, I’ve always done art, I’ve always been kind of an artist, I think it’s just one of those things you’re kind of born with. And then, I just got frustrated trying find shows, and trying to find a place that will show your work, and whatever, dealing with the whole scene. So then it’s like, whatever, I’ll just put it out here for people to enjoy. I don’t really care. Just a way to put it out there so people can see it, as opposed to having a lot of artists who just have a bunch of paintings and stuff in their closet, you know, or in storage. It’s like, what’s the point? So, might as well just put it out there. I guess that’s the main motivation, just to get it out. I guess it’s kind of a creative outlet for me, and then hopefully other people can get some enjoyment out of it.
Where and when did you get your start? You gave us a brief history, did you wanna go more into that?
Solve: Well, when I was in high school and middle school I was one of those kids doing the scribbly scrawls, that was awhile back. I’m getting a little older now. But it just kind of evolved. I was getting kind of sick of that, it wasn’t going anywhere, but I still had that drive to put stuff out, I guess. And it just built and built and built, until now it’s a pretty sophisticated operation, in my opinion. I’ve got a giant room strictly devoted to making art. I’ve got tons of screens. It just kind of happened, I guess. Started doing little stickers, and it just builds. It’s kind of like an addiction, in a way. Whenever you start drinking, or whatever, and you build up that tolerance, and that little bit just doesn’t do it for you any more so you gotta go to a bigger dosage. And then that’s just how it is, you keep getting bigger and bigger and better. That’s kind of the hope too. You know, if you get bored with it, it starts to get stale, then you’ll probably stop doing it. So you gotta keep going, you know?