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Amongst Angels: Liz “Beloved” Lazdin’s Portraits of Chicago

Amongst Angels Chicago, an exposition of Liz “Beloved” Lazdin’s multimedia spray paint, collage, drawing, and painting works, illuminates the way that grit and vulnerability collide in urban spaces, embodied in key figures from Chicago’s activist and hip hop communities.

Beloved explained some of the impetus behind the show:

“I consider myself, at this stage of my life, primarily a muralist and an illustrator, with the street art element still maybe showing up from time to time… I just [paint canvases or pieces] to capture a beautiful moment, or to capture something powerful, or I do it to have something to do in the house now that I can’t go out and run around on the trains and write on things. These are all stories, just stories of people I come in contact with, and emotions, and how there  are powerful, beautiful things right in front of us. And that’s just trying to capture a moment: that’s the illustrator, storyteller side of myself. The rapper side of myself  wants to capture these moments, and paint these pictures, and bring you into these worlds. So that is what this show is really about.”

I first encountered Beloved’s work at the 2011 Meeting of Styles Chicago opening at Zhou B Art Center. On display was a four foot by two foot wooden board with a geometric map of Chicago forming angel wings on a nude woman emerging from the wreckage of urban detritus. But the angel was not misplaced or lost– she came from a hard, concrete structured urban mileu: writers, MCs, rappers, and b-boys and b-girls use urban terrain, discarded cardboard, ignored sounds, and neglected spaces as their poetic material, physical scenes, and narrative referents in the service of creating art, hip hop, that grows spirits and nurtures connections.

Liz “Beloved” Lazdins, Hip Hop Not War. 2011. Charcoal, paper collage, spray enamel on wood. Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, IL (Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce)

 

A meditation on bodily vulnerability and seemingly industrial waste, the piece  draws attention to the role and power of the female body in an artistic context that heavily favors letter forms and abstract color schemes, within  a social scene that is disproportionately populated by male artists. However, in her 2013 show, Amongst Angels, Beloved illuminates the ways in which angelic status crosses genders and contexts. In the show, Beloved offers two different series, one on the “I Still Love H.E.R.” hip hop events that spotlight female artists, another on the “Love of the Black Bloc” series reflecting and honoring the efforts of the Black Bloc coalition at recent NATO protests. The Black Bloc coalition stuck to the principles of non-violence, even while being beaten by police officers, finding inspiration in what might seem like “a strange place to find angels.”

Additionally, there are other works that spotlight members of the graffiti community, such as the show’s curator Zore 64, and more reflective pieces featuring Beloved’s name. All of the pieces, however, offer stories about courage and the voice of the city. They use multiple media including newspaper stories, journal articles, drawings, cartoons, and publicity material that textures such stories, as they issue forth in a multivocal key. Beloved notes: “I come across a lot of materials in life and I just can’t bear to throw them away. So I accumulate them, and incorporate them.” These layers of articles, flyers, and sketches are part of the chorus of an ongoing city, community, and world of creative people that, in Beloved’s words, “speak out against power.”

Liz “Beloved” Lazdins. Love for the Black Block 1 and 2. 2013. Charcoal, paper collage, spray enamel on wood. Mom and Pops Gallery, Chicago, IL (Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce)

Importantly, Beloved’s pieces emit intense energy and texture. Such results are related to her technique, which she explained involves reflection before she begins the physical composition. Beloved said:

“So there is a lot of thought before I start on a piece. Not really a written plan or anything, but there is a lot of thought about how I want the piece to feel, what elements I want to incorporate, some key textiles or pieces I definitely want to incorporate in that particular idea of that piece, and then I just…dig through all my things, and maybe make a few stencils if I need to, and I just compile it all in one place … there [are] many hours of  charcoal drawings that I do…I spray-fixed these ones, so they should be ok—so then I go do the charcoal drawings… and I just attack it! [I] start to lay it all on the ground, and spray, and rub it in with my fist and my spit to get rid of that one ugly part.”

Liz “Beloved” Lazdins. Title Unknown. 2013. Charcoal, paper collage, spray enamel on wood. Mom and Pops Gallery, Chicago, IL (Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce)

The result of her method are pieces that are visually kaleidoscopic, offering layers of information, color, and narratives. The bodies, drawn with charcoal, are in motion, seemingly able to leap from the canvas to the gallery.

Finally, the map of Chicago is an iconic element of the show. It forms the “wings” of Beloved’s angels, and also works to contextualize the social location of the figures, key participants in Chicago’s communities. Beloved said:

“As an old school graffiti writer I have a lot of connection to streets. I imagine streets in my mind, train lines, freight lines, so I had this reaction—and then to Chicagoans the image of the city of Chicago of the map is very iconic—so basically I wanted to make a creature with wings, and I saw the map and said ‘this is what are gonna be my wings on these creatures.’ I think just for me seeing the image is very nostalgic, and it pulls me [makes a whisking noise] to whatever I am talking about. If you have a Chicago legend, like Ang 13, and you put wings on her, which are the map of Chicago, you are solidifying her in the world.”

Liz “Beloved” Lazdins. Ang III. 2013. Charcoal, paper collage, spray enamel on wood. Mom and Pops Gallery, Chicago, IL (Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce)

Beloved’s show combines the extraordinary and the ordinary through an aesthetic that elicits curiosity, hope, and a more careful attention to the angels that we see right in front of us.

Beloved’s show is on display through May 30 at Mom and Pop’s Gallery at 3315 W. Armitage ave (adjacent to Ground Control! Restaurant).

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1 Response to " Amongst Angels: Liz “Beloved” Lazdin’s Portraits of Chicago "

  1. […] article was originally published on May 20, 2013 on Sixty Inches from Center by writer Caitlin Bruce. This article is part of a new content partnership series between Sixty Inches From Center and Art […]

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