No.21: Chaotic Curiosity

Culture & Art
By Virgin Hotels
@VirginHotelsChi

He takes his coffee with honey. His curiosity and propensity for exploring the new and the weird is limitless. He has an unnatural love for the Chicago flag and Precious Moments figurines (you know, the ones your Grandma collected).

As you can imagine, our chat with Chad Edwards, illustrator, curator, and concierge extraordinaire at Virgin Hotels Chicago, was nothing short of interesting.

 We had the pleasure of watching Chad develop and explore new styles before his latest installation, No. 21. Inspired by the people of Chicago, the piece found a home in our coffee / wine bar, Two Zero Three.

What is No. 21?
When we asked Chad to create a piece of art for Two Zero Three, the first thing that came to his mind was the Chicago flag.

Whether you’re like Chad and have lived in Chicago for many years, or a hotel guest just here for the day – you’ll notice the flag everywhere you look. Found on t-shirts to tattoos, the flag’s simple and elegant graphic is a classic that is very much in line with our aesthetic in Two Zero Three.

But according to Chad, painting a giant Chicago flag on the wall would come off as “pandering and too…on the nose.” And, quite frankly, it wouldn’t let our creative illustrator flex his artist muscle.

Interplaying of negative and positive space in the piece, Chad found curiosity in the people of Chicago and decided to fill the flag with images of the people surrounding him. Why? “To show what the flag stands for. Without the people, there is no city. There is no flag. It’s an empty set of graphics.”

Why the name?
Chad often includes graphic elements within his sketches of people. This is to create a juxtaposition between the chaotic, fluid lines that make up people and the harder, more orderly lines of letters and numbers. Illinois is also the 21st state to be incorporated into the union. That justified it for him. No. 21 it is.

The faces in the mural….who are they?
One of the things Chad loves about Chicago is the diverse mix of people, stories, talents, and personalities that coexist. He wanted to include actual people living and making things happen in this city. In No. 21, you’ll spot everyone from a drag queen superstar to a Pilsen-based graffiti artist.


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