A Keepgoing Investigation

What Is SOLVE?

Back in the summer my ten-year-old and I both noticed the word “SOLVE” springing up on mailboxes, dumpsters, and walls all over Avondale. The three images below were all taken within a few blocks of our house.

While it isn’t unusual for us to have a lot of graffiti in our neighborhood (we live in street gang territory, after all), this was something out of the ordinary. I did a little poking around on the Internet and discovered a sad but fascinating story that unfolded almost in my backyard.

It turns out that SOLVE was the nom de guerre of street artist Brendan Scanlon, who was murdered in Chicago’s Palmer Square neighborhood in June 2008. The twenty-four-year-old was a rising star in the street-art community known for his creations on the backs of stop signs, the front windows of newspaper boxes, and once on a TV secretly installed on a Blue Line el train car.

I’m kind of shocked that I didn’t hear about this when it happened. I understand that murder has become almost commonplace in today’s Chicago — as evidenced by the fact that some of the mainstream coverage I found concerning SOLVE’s death was included as part of a murder round-up article of sorts — but the fact that I only discovered this through graffiti and the Internet seems wrong somehow. Maybe it’s just me; if you already knew all about this and are only surprised by our ignorance, please feel free to write us some angry letters. We really enjoy those.

In any case, you can find out more about SOLVE and his work here, which is the first article I found when I started poking around. A broad range of his artwork can be viewed on his Flickr Photostream, and a show celebrating and honoring his life and work is set to open at Chicago’s Country Club Art Gallery on January 16

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