I’m for public art generally but especially right now, when spending time walking around outdoors is so much safer than being in a gallery or a museum. Lucky are the residents of Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood, where artist Alonso Galue has since the beginning of the pandemic produced a pair of heartfelt and generous projects that fit right in to the local landscape. In May, using the method by which No Parking signs get posted, he plastic-wrapped thirty-four original portraits of hardscrabble Venezuelan kids to sidewalk trees, captioning them with poignant lines from the poetry of their homeland and the phone number for a local helpline. In October he handed out to passersby envelopes containing a printed drawing of a mirthful woman accompanied by the simple greeting “Are you ok?” in English and Spanish. Recipients who felt moved to answer the question could use an included QR code to do so (responses will appear in a future version of the project). Galue isn’t providing rent relief or volunteer medical care or free food—all desperately needed due to the devastations of the coronavirus—but he is offering humanity, which under current social limitations may be what’s most badly needed of all.
—Lori Waxman 2021-02-03 9:39 PM