18th Street Pilsen Open Studios
Every participating artist is asked to talk about their connection to Pilsen. And if new to the neighborhood, to describe what drew them here.
This is what Hector shares with us:
"Es una lista larga! I am a co-founder of 18th St. Pilsen Open Studios, together with fellow artists from the community."
Click on Image to enter Hector's photo gallery.
ARTIST BIO & STATEMENT
Hector Duarte is a muralist, painter and printmaker who has called the Pilsen community home since he moved to Chicago from his native Michoacan, Mexico, in 1985. He is a co-founder of the annual 18th Street Pilsen Open Studios event.
Duarte’s Pilsen home and studio are painted on three sides with the massive mural “Gulliver in Wonderland.” His studio is a frequent site on neighborhood mural tours and is a favorite destination during the Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago event.
Duarte was born in 1952 in the small, rural town of Caurio, Michoacán, Mexico. From a young age, he developed a fascination with public art by observing the ornate wall and ceiling paintings in the Catholic churches he was brought to as a boy in Zamora, Michoacán. He first studied art through correspondence courses advertised in the back of comic books. Duarte went on to study mural painting on a scholarship at the Studio and School of David Alfaro Siqueiros in Cuernavaca in 1977. (Siqueiros had passed away a few years prior; Duarte learned from painters who had worked directly with the Mexican master muralist.)
Over the past three decades Duarte has played a vital part of the public art community in Chicago.
Duarte attended an international mural painting conference in Chicago in 1978 and was struck by the dynamism of the Chicano and Community Mural Movement in the city. In 1985 he moved to Chicago to be a part of that energy. Since then, Duarte has participated in the creation of more than 50 murals and public artworks in the city and nearby communities. His public art adorns libraries, schools, a CTA train stop, the lakefront, and many other sites in Chicago and communities throughout the Midwest. He has won mural commissions from Chicago-area communities including Oak Park, Naperville, Highland Park, Bensenville, and Indianapolis, Indiana. He has also continued to paint and exhibit studio works in Mexico. In 2006 Duarte initiated a public art project encompassing his entire rural hometown of Caurio de Guadalupe, Michoacán, that dealt with issues of migration that have shaped his town and both his countries.
Duarte relishes the monumental; he holds title to some of the city’s largest public art works (In 1994 he helped organize a project that used a steam roller on Randolph Street in the Loop to create a 200-foot-long woodcut print. Duarte was artistic coordinator.) His work deals frequently with the immigrant experience, though he takes pride in producing public art that can be read and enjoyed by people from all backgrounds. His artwork ponders questions of identity, borders, human struggle, liberation, migration, and concepts of home. He frequently tackles social issues, from surveillance to genetically modified corn. Duarte also deals with more universal themes of love and death, often through the lens of his Mexican culture.
Duarte has exhibited smaller-scale paintings and prints in solo and collective shows at such venues as the School of the Art Institute, the State of Illinois Gallery, the Chicago Historical Society, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and Casa Estudio Museo Diego Rivera in Mexico City.
Duarte has received a number of awards, including an Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance in 2015; artistic production grants from the State of Michoacán, Mexico; a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship award; the 1995 Chicago Bar Association Award for the best work of public art; and a 1994 NEA proect grant. Early in his career, Duarte was honored to be chosen to restore the murals that adorn David Alfaro Siqueiros’ tomb.
Duarte is deeply committed to public art and to the notion that art should be accessible to everyone and part of daily life, not segregated in museums or galleries, or available only to the economically privileged.