art curatorial collective

Dont Fret
Big Shoulders

July 7, 2017 — September 3, 2017

“A town that can look, in the earliest morning light, like the fanciest all-around job since Babylon. And by that same night, south down State or north on Clark or west on Madison, seem as though the Pottawattomies had been the wisest after all.”

—Nelson Algren

Johalla Projects is pleased to present Big Shoulders, a major exhibition of original work by artist Dont Fret. In his third solo exhibition with Johalla Projects, Dont Fret takes on Chicago’s grit and beauty with a multi-layered display of his urban iconography, comedic wit, and street-wise sensibility. The exhibition will run from July 7 to September 3. An opening reception will be held on Friday, July 7 from 7-10pm.

Dont Fret’s wheat pastes and murals populate Chicago’s streets with biting reflections on the perils and disappointments of the human condition laced with a salty charm and glimmers of optimism. By maintaining an allusive sense of anonymity, Dont Fret is Chicago’s artistic “everyman” speaking for the diverse array of people who walk the very streets he illustrates. In recent years, Dont Fret’s practice has expanded across the nation, manifesting in pop-up projects, bars, ceramics, and large-scale installations. Big Shoulders is a return to his core, a visual poem dedicated to Chicago arranged in three parts.

The center of the immersive exhibition includes precarious furniture-like sculptures that display traces of the street, fragments from life, and discarded materials. Along the gallery walls, works on paper and mixed media wall installations present Dont Fret’s idiosyncratic figures, writing, and city scenes. Those who know his work closely may see recycled paintings or familiar photographs mixed into the new work that evokes a collapsed sense of time and space. This exhibition also includes more biographical works, with narratives and symbolic references that intimately capture the artist's personal conflicts and reflections on his life. In this multi-dimensional exhibition, Dont Fret presents an urban ontology of his Chicago, of our Chicago, of the idea of Chicago.

—Written by Kate Pollasch

Dont Fret is an artist born, raised, and currently working in Chicago. In addition to his wheat pasting, his practice includes drawing, painting, sculpture, performance and installation-based work both on the street and in the gallery space. He has produced large-scale public murals in a number of American cities including New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Denver as well as internationally in cities like London, São Paulo, and Berlin. His work has been in a number of gallery exhibitions nationally and internationally, with shows in Chicago, San Francisco, London, and Oakland. In 2014, he was included Paint Paste Sticker — the large Chicago street art survey at the Chicago Cultural Center. In 2016, his work was prominently featured in the Netflix original series “Easy.”