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APO Building

18th Street Pilsen Open Studios - 2023

1438 West 18th Street, Chicago, IL, USA

Cultural Space

October 21st & 22nd / 12-8pm



APO has a long rich history in advocacy for the visual and performing arts, women's rights, labor rights, and community empowerment.  The building is one of the few iconic buildings still under neighborhood control since the late 60's early 70's.

Over the years APO has hosted the most prominent Mexican, Chicano and LatinX visual artists and printers.  Under the direction of Rose Varela Piña, the venue is providing exposure to established and emerging artists from Pilsen, Chicago, and Latin America.

The artists showcased in "Residentes" are a representative of longtime collaborators (Victor M. Montañez /Norman Larreta),  artists that emerged from the collective (Ricardo Bermudez Rodriguez), and artists that are being shown for the first time in Chicago, (Rene Aguirre/Maria Elba Garcia Chavez).  


"Residentes" is a committed core artists collective that has been working out of APO insuring that the iconic venue maintains its rightful and historic place in the cultural epicenter of Pilsen's 18th Street; Advancing its legacy of showcasing art that is unapologetic about pride in Latino heritage, pro immigrant, pro feminist, pro labor and pro community.  

In my work I embody a variety of imagery. I try to strike a cord with the audience to connect with an emotion of personal or political reflection. My style of work is focused on a social surrealism which builds on personal and societal concerns. Some of my art pieces have abstract qualities that play with colors and shapes. Overall, my work is an extension of myself, my concerns, aspirations, consciousness, fragility and influences that shape me as a human being.

Victor M. Montañez, Norman Larreta, and Ricardo Rodriguez have been showcasing in the venue for a while including past Pilsen Open Studios.  They present two newcomer to this year's art walk: Rene Aguirre from Chicago and Maria Elba Garcia Chavez from Oaxaca Mexico.  

Rene Aguirre is a social surrealist that blends the genre with abstract sensibilities.  He portrays himself, his aspirations and deep concerns with both strong consciousness and emotional fragility.

Maria Elba Garcia Chavez makes her Chicago debut with a collection of art that pays tribute to the strong Mexican feminine ideal giving tribute to the human spirit of perseverance and a variety of undying aspirations.

Victor M. Montañez is a life long artist. He has been involved in the Chicago cultural scene since the mid 1980’s and before that in East LA’s Boyle Heights artist community.  In Chicago, his gallery hosted the longest running Latino art walk, Pilsen Open Studios’ after party in 2011 and 2012 in the historic APO building. He reaches out across the city promoting Chicago’s cultural wealth through workshops, talks, exhibits and live painting.  He directed the artist recruitment for Albany Park's, People's Arts Festival.  He chaired the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival's, Artists Recruitment committee, The Little Village Arts Festival, and was a key organizer of The Midwest Lowriders’ Celebration of Culture for two decades for which he was featured on HBO’s Latino Life in the United States.  He is active in the music and art scene in the Midwest and is often showcased with international touring acts.  He has been showcased in Navy Pier, The House of Blues, and many of Chicago’s most significant cultural venues and festivals most prominently and recently, PACH's "Hecho En" Pilsen.


Victor M. Montañez is the originator of "Empowerment Art” an art form known for its distinct feature of allowing viewers to display the same artwork in multiple arrangements, each arrangement depicting various protagonists. "Know Art", the term coined to describe it, embodies options and changes, It is a parallel effort to his educational pursuits trying to bring about change and transformation to communities. In that sense, Know Art goes beyond simple technique and style. The art mirrors the struggle for social justice through participation and democracy.


Victor’s public works are showcased in Northeastern Illinois University’s student Union, Chicago City Colleges, NEIU’s Center for College Access and Success, The Angelina Pedrozo Center, El Centro, Spanish Coalition for Housing, and several public high schools in Chicago and the suburbs.  His work is part of significant private collections most notably the Borg Warner Automotive art collection.

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