Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 11: 42nd-34th Streets
This sketch is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see the painting completed based on this sketch.
This mile is similar in character to the one which proceeds it.  The street remains wide, with the avenue split by a boulevard-style median.  One feels aware of the large volume of asphalt forming the street.  The buildings are a mix of residential and industrial mingling to create a strange balance. 

The width of the street is accentuated at a portion of the street which is crossed by a highway and a set of train tracks.  One finds some relief near the northern end of this mile, with McKinley Park running along the eastern edge of the avenue.  

I was particularity drawn to making a painting of this corner store because of the Schlitz logo on the side of the building.  It's a common marker on old eating and drinking establishments in Chicago.  The Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company was an American brewery based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was once the largest producer of beer in the world. Its namesake beer, Schlitz, was known as "The beer that made Milwaukee famous" and was famously advertised with the slogan "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer" The Schlitz company began to succeed after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when Schlitz donated thousands of barrels of beer to that city, which had lost most of its breweries. He quickly opened a distribution point there, beginning a national expansion. Schlitz built dozens of tied houses in Chicago, most with a concrete relief of the company logo embedded in the brickwork.

Do you know buildings in Chicago with the Schlitz logo?
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