Vertical Gallery presents Building The Dream, the debut US solo show from Xenz, the London-based graffiti artist, featuring a series of paintings, drawings and prints inspired by descriptions of Chicago from the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Toward the end of the 19th century, many buildings in Chicago had to be raised on jack screws to prevent them sinking into the mud. Raising these buildings inadvertently created a maze of alleyways below the city. Originally home to rats, this “underworld,” as it became known, was the perfect breeding ground for organized crime. One of the first people to take advantage of this was Roger Plant, a Yorkshire man, who ran a notorious club on the corner of Wells and Monroe called “Under The Willow”. This club also served as an entrance to this underworld beneath the city. At a time when Chicago was the gateway to the wild west, and everyone was looking for a good time, Under the Willow became the most talked about vice-den in the country.
Based on a true story, this show was inspired by the book “The Outfit,” by Gus Russo, in which he describes pre-fire Chicago and its underworld so well. Building The Dream is the artist’s interpretation of these descriptions—visualizing this sepia-toned world full of sinister optimism.