Abstract Art Piece Raises Eyebrows, Questions

Neighbors would like artist to come forward, explain work

By BJ Lutz and Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Thursday, Feb 16, 2012  |  Updated 8:45 PM CDT
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The area has had its share of eye-opening art displayed on the street, but this latest piece is striking a nerve with some people.

The area has had its share of eye-opening art displayed on the street, but this latest piece is striking a nerve with some people.

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It's not signed, so there's no way to connect with the artist to learn the motivation, but some say a piece of artwork on Chicago's industrial north side is a racist effigy of a man hanging from a tree.

"From here it looks like a lynching," Robert Sengstacke, the former editor of the Chicago Defender, said of the abstract piece near a viaduct on the 300 block of North Ogden Avenue.

Sengstacke said it's not only the work that's suspect, but also its location, near the only two black-owned businesses in the neighborhood. One of those businesses recently held a fundraiser for Rep. Danny Davis.

"I was coming to work on Wednesday morning and I saw the effigy, I don't know, and got a little concerned," said Robert Scott, who owns one of the nearby businesses.

"[It's] Black History Month, and in the middle of the month here pops up what appears to be an effigy, and it does concern me," he said.

Even though it's an unlikely location, local artists said the area near the viaduct has been the locale of impromptu galleries in the past.

And even Sengstacke said he sees the artistic merit in the work.

"I think the art and the way it's executed is excellent," he said.

Scott said he'd like to see it removed.

"I won't bother to tear down somebody's artwork or destroy what somebody's created, but I am concerned about it. And if the person, whoever did it, would step forward and explain what it really means, it would make me feel a whole lot better," he said.

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