In the 19th Century, Chicago was sinking into the mire, both morally and literally. Towards the end of the 1800s many of the city’s buildings needed lifting onto supports to stop them subsiding into the mud, leaving a network of alleyways beneath them. Out of sight from polite society above, the alleys were a perfect place for dodgy dealings, criminal gangs got organised, and the Chicago “underworld” was born.
UK street artist Xenz has rolled up his trouser legs and waded into these human sewers for Building the Dream, a series of paintings, drawings and prints based on descriptions of Victorian-era Chicago and Gus Russo’s The Outfit. In the book, Russo charts the rise of organised crime in the seedy underbelly of America’s third city, and in this series on display at Vertical Gallery, Xenz vividly recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the murky underworld in a style that blends urban spray-can art with traditional painting technique. The exhibition runs from 5 July to 26 July.