The bank of windows which should be letting the natural light into the living room are completely covered by a painting. Art collector Erasmo Salgado loves art more than sunshine. For over 30 years, he has collected over 1,000 works by Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latin American artists. A massive piece of art by Ismael Rodriguez, features an angelic figure standing astride the ruined bodies and buildings of war, backlit by a haze of death. Situated on Northwest side of Chicago, the Salgado home looks like all of its neighboring houses from the outside but inside it is a veritable museum of Mexican art. Paintings and masks hang from every wall; sculptures sit on tables, shelves, and lay on the floor.
Even before emigrating from the Mexican state of Guerrero, Salgado loved art. Infatuated by the works of José Guadalupe Posada and muralist José Orozco, Salgado drew during class in school. When he moved to Chicago, he found a thriving Mexican and Latino art scene driven by muralists he could observe at work right on the street. Centered primarily around the Pilsen neighborhood on the city's West Side, artists like Hector Duarte, Jose Guerrero, Mario Castillo, and Marcus Raya were making an impact on the walls of Chicago.
"He always viewed art as a thing that you take in," Salgado's son Erik says. "It penetrates your eyes visually, it goes in through your veins, and can touch you in an emotional way."
A massive Hector Duarte painting greets you right as you walk in the front door, depicting an avian heart encircled by gnashing border guard dogs. It symbolizes the pieces of their spirit immigrants must leave behind. Directly next to it is an early Marcos Raya, a portrait of the artist in a bar, the countertop now a butcher's block, a gun and bottle before him and the leering demons of his alcoholism floating just above. Together they depict the complicated reality of immigrant life, a life Salgado knows personally.
Salgado became friends with the artists, visiting the sites of their murals and their studios. Moved by the work his friends were doing, he decided to collect their art. "I didn't want to have a poster of the art. I wanted to have the originals. A person like me, a working man, can have one original piece," Salgado says.
The collector would offer to buy paintings in installments like art layaway and gradually built his collection, buying what he loved. He says, "I paid little by little. Most of the pieces, I did like this!" Salgado's early pieces by the likes of Duarte, Castillo, Raya, and Alejandro Romero make the Colección Salgado an important sampling of Mexican art history.
The Salgados are now in the process of cataloguing the entire collection and putting it online, where anyone in the world may see it. With a digital listing, they could easily curate special shows—like a Raya retrospective. They want to offer tours to art lovers and school kids, to bring art to their neighborhood. Erik, a rapper and former graffiti writer who has recently turned to a studio practice, currently runs The Hermosa Walls mural and gallery space in the backyard, making the house a one-stop for contemporary art as well.
Erasmo and Erik are bringing the Salgado's art collection full circle, evoking the spirit of those muralists who inspired Erasmo. Erik says, "He's super into murals because it's for the public." The Colección Salgado will be as well.
Anyone interested in seeing the Coleccion Salgado can contact Erik Salgado at email@example.com. Hermosa Wall's exhibition schedule can be found here, and their one year anniversary show will be on August 26th, from 1-5 PM.