Colby Gallery

18th Street Pilsen Open Studios - 2021

1626 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608


Open to the public: October 16th & 17th / 12-8pm
*Indoor Gallery
* Masks required indoors.

Featured Artist: Jeff Abbey Maldonado

“Mr. Maldonado is a Now artist. He lives in the present moment, the moment which encapsulates the future and the past, all at once.” He is a “master of his art” and a “cultural conductor.” ~ Artist Mario Castillo

Jeff Abbey Maldonado studied under Mario Castillo at Columbia College, Chicago, in the early 1990’s. Castillo is credited with painting the first latino mural in Chicago. After his studies, Maldonado acquired a studio at the APO Building, four months after the opening of the Cafe Jumping Bean across the street.

Maldonado’s first major exposure was his installation for the Day of the Dead at the National Museum of Mexican Art (previously the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum) in 1996. Maldonado was included as one of six Pilsen muralists chosen for the Pilsen/Little Village Exhibit at the Chicago History Museum in 1997. The same year Maldonado was commissioned by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to paint a series of portable murals, which were rededicated in 2019.

In 2000 Maldonado received a solo exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art for six months. He is the recipient of three Governor’s International Artist Exchange Grants. These grants provided for him to exhibit in Istanbul, Turkey, where he traveled twice to complete a series of 33 etchings with the assistance of Mexican printmaker Nicolas de Jesus. 

Maldonado is one of the founding members of the annual 18th Street Pilsen Open Studios. In addition he was part of Chicago Artist Month held every October, and on the Advisory Committee representing Pilsen Artists. 

In 2009 Jeff Maldonado Junior, aka JDEF, was murdered in broad daylight on 18th Street. JDEF was a lyricist, writer, and was on his way for his first public appearance when he was gunned down. In response Maldonado Senior initiated a non profit community based organization called the JDEF PEACE PROJECT. This endeavor has grown into working with over 150 teens in six communities in need. The mission of the  JDEF PEACE PROJECT is to impact the life skills and mentality of teens through the art making process. In 2020 Maldonado received The Purple Star award for his innovation and dedication in working with Chicago youth.

Maldonado created a documentary titled 19 and a Day: The Life and Times of J-Def to honor his son and to bring a message of peace to schools in the Chicago area. The film was selected for the 29th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival, raising awareness to a wider audience.

Maldonado has been commissioned by Universal Studios to paint a mural for the film 47 Ronin and was commissioned by Warner Bros. Studio to paint a canvas for the film Mad Max: Fury Road. 

Currently, Maldonado is working on a graphic novel entitled City of Lotus.


I fell in lovvvvve with Pilsen in the early 1990's while studying Spanish. I had just returned from spending close to a year in Mexico and Central America studying Latin America art, culture, language, and history. Bonding with an elderly Indigenous woman in the mountains of Chiapas changed my life forever. The experience with her and studying in the Yucatan reached deeply into my soul and shaped it like clay, forming an all encompassing compassion and mission for Latin American art, human rights and the environment. My father's years of Native American Studies also influenced my paradigm of reality from an early age.

I opened Colby Gallery on 18th Street between Ashland Avenue and Paulina Street in 2005 to show art that empowers the human spirit, promote local Pilsen artists, and brings national and international artists into the neighborhood for the local artists and community to experience. The mission of the gallery is to work with todays most passionate and inspirational contemporary artists and support them in creating new paradigms of the empowered human experience and potential. 

I bought my building and have made Pilsen my home. Over the years I have been involved in the arts community, served as a local school council representative at Cooper dual language academy for several years, was a founding member of GPEDA, participating in P.O.S. for most years, participated in many local groups, and became a godmother to a local Mexican family’s little boy, etc… I believe in people, especially artists, and the power we have together to create a better world, with more harmony and justice, than the one we have been given.