Through a series of new works on paper, canvas, and installations incorporating found and crafted objects, St. Louis-based artist Juan William Chávez reflects on St. Louis’ moniker of “Mound City” and his experience of the area’s remaining man-made mounds (constructed by the region’s earliest indigenous societies) growing up and living in the city. Known for his research-based and social art practice, as well as his work as founder of St. Louis’ Northside Workshop, “Mound City” sees Chávez taking an introspective, personal approach to these monumental elements of the region’s built environment.
Drawing and mark-making has long sat at the center of Chávez’s visual practice, and many of the works in “Mound City” take the mounds as visual cues, starting with the form suggested by the mound and moving outward, exploring this basic shape through many different media. Other works read the mounds through the lens of personal and collective history; pieces that incorporate embroidery and basket-weaving reflect on the construction techniques utilized by the mounds’ builders nearly a millennium ago and their resonance with the creative practices of Chávez’s Peruvian heritage. Through these diverse forms, “Mound City” provides a new perspective on the ways that artists relate to place and the layers of history that comprise urban environments.