Chris Silva: Back to the Future Primitive

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Chicago-based designer Chris Silva is quite the forward thinker and he designs with his heart. I’m going to quote him here because I felt it powerful enough: “I see art as a way of thinking and acting in the world rather than merely a stylistic or material practice. I am concerned with how people relate to the self, to each other and to their environment. I am saddened by cruelty, xenophobia and greed. I aim to give artistic presence to my humanity and concern.”


I think Chris’ way of thinking is really important. It’s very understandable why he’d choose to take part in collaborative large scale projects. At its core art is something created to drive an emotional reaction from the audience. Hate is not the opposite of love, apathy is. To an artist, apathy towards their work is a true mark of failure. This is something that undoubtedly scares us all as artists, but when you’re as passionate as Chris is you needn’t worry, the world can’t help but take notice. Large scale projects are often most impressive because it’s impossible to get up close and take in the piece in its entirety. Step back and suddenly you’re amazed at the scale, time, and effort put into the work.


Chris had this to say about this particular mural: “Back To The Future Primitive” is a collaborative mural by myself and my good friend, Dan Ezra Lang. I was asked by Chicago Artists Coalition to submit a proposal for a mural at 1871‘s new space, which at the time was still being built out on the 12th floor of Merchandise Mart here in Chicago. 1871 is a new entrepreneurial incubator. It’s a non-profit and has been supported largely by the state of Illinois in order to facilitate the creation of businesses that will create local jobs in the future. 1871 is the year of The Great Chicago Fire and is used here as a metaphor for the potential in building from scratch. More info from the 1871 website:


“The story of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 isn’t really about the fire. It’s about what happened next: A remarkable moment when the most brilliant engineers, architects and inventors came together to build a new city. Their innovations – born of passion and practical ingenuity – shaped not just Chicago, but the modern world. What started 140 years ago continues to this day. Chicago’s brightest digital designers, engineers and entrepreneurs are shaping new technologies, disrupting old business models, and resetting the boundaries of what’s possible.”


“I was presented with a few design leads for the proposal and the one I decided to hone in on was the inclusion of ‘technology’. I’m always looking for ways to make my projects more collaborative and give some spotlight to my talented cohorts, so when thinking about this I was reminded of some great, sort of ‘futuristic’ drawings that Dan had done, and using them seemed like a loose, fun way to integrate that theme into the piece. We had a nice materials budget on the project so it worked out perfectly for me to simply pay for the use of Dan’s illustrations then design it and construct it on my own. All of the characters except my little yellow dog are courtesy of Mr. Lang. The final piece was all made with salvaged wood & water-based enamel paints, with a little bit of spray paint thrown in. It was a really fun piece to do – one which satisfied my own creative and economic needs, as well as made the client very happy. Extra thanks goes out to my buddy, Erik Harris for helping out big time on this one.