Two artists, Tony Fitzpatrick and Danny Torres, stood in the lobby of a new building on LaSalle Street, opposite a building that was once east of Gino, now closed, formerly Michael Jordan’s restaurant and long before a place called Ireland. .
The city is an organic thing that is constantly being transformed, and this new building, at 448 N. LaSalle Street, is a good and encouraging example of the new. Twelve floors of glass and steel and striking on the outside, it recalls the work of the great architect Ludwig Miss van der Rohe, and a sign near its entrance reads, “Tomorrow’s Office is Coming Here.”
Inside, talking to the two artists, was a man named Jay Javers, and he told me, “We wanted a real building in Chicago.” He and his son Charlie are directors at CA Ventures and Midwest Property Group Ltd., who designed and built the architectural structure. Lamar Johnson Collaborative.
More importantly, Javers became friends with artist Tony Fitzpatrick early in the morning while touring East Bank Club. One morning, Javers told Fitzpatrick about this new building and his desire to decorate it with art.
Now the placement of art in commercial buildings is not a new trend. Many buildings contain original works of art. The private club Union League in our city contains one of the largest art collections in the world outside the museums.
This latest art adventure began with a heart attack that Fitzpatrick received in 2015. “My cardiac rehabilitation nurse was this beautiful woman named Rosa at St. Mary’s Hospital.” She told me that her nephew was an artist and asked if I would meet him.
Of course, he said yes.
This artist was Danny Torres, about three decades younger than Fitzpatrick, who has a long history of encouraging and mentoring younger artists.
“So I came and met Tony and we just sat and talked and it was like we knew each other forever,” Torres told me. It was like in that movie Back to the Future, where Marty meets his older self.
“I was knocked out by his work and decided to do a show for him,” said Fitzpatrick.
This show was staged at the then AdventureLand Gallery in Fitzpatrick. On the opening night, Torres sold nine of the 15 paintings in the exhibition. He soon sold them all.
“It changed everything for me,” says Torres. “I was about to become a commercial illustrator, but in my heart I wanted to be a fine artist.”
Torres was raised by the single mother of Logan Square and Portage Park. “I was the definition of a child with a key,” he says. “Most of my friends were too. We walked the city streets like a pack of wild dogs. ”
He and his mother eventually moved to Glenview, where he attended high school.
“I managed to keep my nose clean, but I didn’t like life in the suburbs,” he said. “Everything was like cookies. The city was alive and organic, constantly changing and exciting. I don’t like to paint scenes that are conventionally beautiful. I like to paint liquor stores and hot dog stands, alleys and trash cans. It takes me back to the years when I wandered the streets with my friends. When I see a building or a neighborhood in Chicago, I imagine the stories that happened and all the idiots involved. That’s what I tried to do with my work, leaving the viewer to create their own story. “
He attended public college for several years and then received a degree from the American Academy of Arts and a degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
Following the success of AdventureLand, Fitzpatrick sought Torres’ help when he was commissioned to create a massive mural for the exterior of the new Steppenwolf Theater building last spring. It was 12 feet high and 76 feet long, entitled “Night and Day in the Garden of All Other Ecstasies” and designed in honor of the late artistic director of Degree Wolf and Fitzpatrick’s friend Martha Lavi. My colleague Chris Jones called it “a beautiful work of art in the Chicago style.”
This success led the couple to set up a public art initiative company called Fitzpatrick / Torres, Humboldt, Cabalo. Their next project was in Glen Elin in 2021: two 8-by-10-foot frescoes from Fitzpatrick near a new footpath that connects pedestrians with the Metra, garages and business in the center. It is full of birds from the area and a background rich in pop culture images that fill Fitzpatrick’s work.
Four of Torres’ paintings hang in the lobby of 448. The paintings are, in a word, spectacular. And a few more words, Chicago. They are vivid in color and each has a bright neon sign. The 4-foot by 8-foot paintings represent Candlelite, the tavern and pizza oasis; Alcala’s, a reputable western clothing store; and Byron, the hot dog john. And if you look closely at Byron’s painting, you can see Fitzpatrick ordering food.
“I am very happy and proud,” Torres said. “Last year was blurry because I was locked in my studio, really putting my heart and soul into these songs.
Several short speeches were made as the partygoers moved to the roof of the building. Javers, who was born in the Austin neighborhood, spoke again about the importance of building a “building in Chicago.” Fitzpatrick talked about working with Torres to “curate” the building, inviting other local artists to move their work to other already empty wall spaces. Torres said a few words. His mother smiled.