Bridgeport is the new art hotspot, owing a good chunk of its blossoming fame to the Zhou Brothers, two rather famous Chinese artists who have worked in Chicago for many years and purchased an 80,000-square-foot building to establish a center for contemporary art and emerging artists.
A foursome of friends, recently graduated with M.F.A. degrees from Governors State University, were the first tenants to move in. Initially the group, Carla Carr, Sergio Gomez, Javier Chavira and Kimberly M. Harmon, just needed studio space. Then Eureka! The group realized they could also exhibit their work to the public. Soon enough 33 Collective Gallery was born, named so because all four artists were 33 years old at the time.
The foursome exhibit in group and solo shows, and have opened up the exhibitions to outsiders; last summer they hosted a self-portrait show based on open call submissions. The focus is mostly on painting, photography and sculpture. Gomez's work, in particular, is beautiful. His paintings are colorful, surreal, yet mystical portraits, in the Latina tradition explored by the likes of Frieda Kahlo. Each of the owners has a background in mural painting. The group plans to develop mural painting programs for neighborhood kids in Bridgeport, possibly by next summer.
The Zhou B. Center is still very much a work in progress. When 33 Collective Gallery first moved in there was no heat and there still is no signage to identify the building (hmmm...sounds like prime location for a mural). The group initially considered renting space in Pilsen, but Bridgeport rents were more affordable, the size was vaster (2,000 square feet) and, as Gomez, says, "We thought it would be exciting to be involved in something from the ground up."
33 Collective Gallery has already grown in the mere year and a half it has been there to include 33½ Gallery down the hall and 33 Collective Annex down the street at 3636 S. Iron St.
Centerstage Reviewer: Joanne Hinkel