Artist Profile: CHema Skandal!

CHema Skandal has an international following, a lively mural here in Chicago, and his hand in several mediums and artful possibilities across town including his current show with Chicago’s screen printers in Rogers Park and his prints being sold in conjunction with Galerie F. His style is refreshingly retro while thriving in the present day, the living moment.

To dig into the mind of CHema Skandal! is to dig into the realm of many life forms of art. To sense what the man is up to is to sense six, even seven at a time. CHema Skandal! fuses together music and art in a way that only he can. Graphics and sound. Rhythms and images. Senses and immense, immeasurable evocation of vocation and craft.

We talk with the man himself about the upsides and downfalls of living in Mexico City and Chicago, clandestine destiny, and the identity of an artist in the midst of realizations ranging from retro psychedelia to complex, essential criteria.

Ladies and gentlemen: the man, the myth, the legend: CHema Skandal!…

As a native of Mexico City, you’ve been living in Chicago for 3 years now. So, what are your favorite and least favorite things about both cities?
My favorite thing about México City is that you can find a lot of things to see and do. You have plenty of museums and cultural events to attend. You can still go to the markets and find antiques and old stuff. Also there are interesting small villages surrounding the big cities. I don’t like that it is crowded (overpopulated) and it takes too long for you to get from one place to another. Also it’s sad that corruption has become a way of life and it is hard to speak out against that political system.
About Chicago I like that you can find a nice blend of different people and cultures and learn from it. Thus you can show your work and be appreciated. The one thing I can not get used to is the long cold winter, but I do like how the seasons change.

Why did you choose/how did you end up in Chicago?
I got here by destiny: love and work. Personal issues made me move here and I like it.

What has your experience been like here so far? How have people been responding to your art?
I like Chicago, I have been showing my art around since I came visiting for the first time. I have found galleries and people very receptive to my work.

What do you miss most about Mexico City?
The only thing I really miss is my family and some of my friends. A couple places too: the University of México (U.N.A.M.) and a music venue, El Alicia. Luckily there is an extension of U.N.A.M. here in Chicago!

The Opposite of Slick just opened up at Loyola. Tell our readers about the exhibition and what they can expect from it.
The exhibition features the work of different visual artists from Chicago that use the silk screen printing as an output for their work with big names on the line up. I am honored to show some of my posters and art prints on it. It runs through January 19th, 2013. Be sure you visit it and invite your friends!

Tell us about what you’re up to with the NMMA.
I am currently working for the National Museum of Mexican Arts collaborating through a youth organization to bring kids an after school program that exposes them to the art world. It’s called Creative Art Resources to Engage Students (CARES).

Tell us a story about the birth of your mask and what it means to you. Also, touch on the origin of your name and what it means to you and how you want that to come across to your fans/critics.
Lucha libre (wrestling) is a very popular sport and cultural movement in México. Arts and graphic design have been influenced by it and the graphics I am inspired by are not the exception. In México, Luchadores (wrestlers) are very important people and in the film industry’s peak years they were considered heroes.
As CHema Skandal! became a character I thought it was a good idea to have a mask for him so I contacted a specialized manufacturer to make the actual mask. It was done by a family owned company that produces professional wrestler masks.
CHema is my name and I was named Skandal because I really love independent Jamaica’s first music genre. I am a Jamaican music enthusiast and supporter.
I’ve been around the graphic and the music scenes so that is what CHema Skandal! means, the merge of both.

What’s the most fun you’ve had creating a piece?
I am not sure if it was fun, because they were hard to finish and they took me a long time, but the mural paintings I have done so far (one in France and one here in Chicago) have been great experiences. I think big formats are interesting. Woodcut printing is another thing I really enjoy working on.

Your poster shows have been gaining a lot of steam, so I’m curious as to how you generate ideas for them…
Most of the time the inspiration comes from the music, so when I am creating them I focus on the type of music and the graphics.
There are art prints too, which are not necessarily aimed to promote a musical event, and I have been working on that too.

Your mural on 16th Street (Cucurrucucu My Love) has garnered much attention since it went up. I absolutely love the way it livens up the area, as much of your work does wherever it is. Tell us about your experience creating this piece in particular and how, if at all, folks have been communicating to you about it.
Thank you. Yes, I think it works very well in the neighborhood and people seem to appreciate it. Actually when I was working on it I got really positive feedback from the kids (there is a school across the street) and from the neighbors and promenaders.
That took me almost 2 weeks of work, in part because weather didn’t help, but also because it’s quite big for my standards. I really enjoyed working on this one!

Music, art, design. How would you persuade someone who is not interested in any type of arts to be into what you’re doing or what the arts do as a whole? Do you feel that it is necessary to bring them over to the “other side?” Why or why not?
Yes, definitely! I mean, you can not force people to understand something and not believe in it. For me personally Arts saved me. They showed me vast different ways you can walk through in life. You can notice this when you encourage kids to explore more, to look for an artist or to try to find something they have never seen: when they come across it, they are surprised and oftentimes inspired. I think arts and culture in general can expand your mind, at the end that is the positive legacy of our society.

Your distinct design style is so full of life. Take me through your artistic development and how you came to be the artist you are today.
Everything started in the biggest city of the world: I was born there and then I moved to another city when I started doodling and drawing later. My parents supported me since I was a kid, and perhaps I didn’t have a young artist education but I had the freedom to learn. My mother let me draw on the walls and my father let me use as much paper as I wanted. Believe it or not, those things gave me a natural sense of liberty in the creative process and exploration.
After concluding my studies I attended the National Arts School of the University of México where I got my Visual Communication degree.

What would you like people to take away from your body of work? What does CHema Skandal’s legacy look and sound like?
My legacy would be a book with a double long play record inside, 99% hand made and limited edition. HA HA I don’t really know, but it would be a mixture of graphics and sounds for sure. That is what I have been doing since I was a teenager and I really like it.

Where can our readers keep up with what you’ve got going on?
You can always visit the website There are some social media and other links.

What’s next for you?
Right now I am working on personal projects and the after school program. Stay tuned for news and upcoming exhibitions.

Thank you so much again for taking time out of your busy schedule to hang out and chat with us a little bit. We’re BIG fans of your stuff over here, and we’re looking forward to what the future has in store for you.
Thank you very much for the support and interest. I hope we find each other again soon!

CHema’s current group show is at Loyola up in Rogers Park through January 19th.
1131 W. Sheridan Ave.


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