© Jim Bachor
Update 10:15am on 7/20/18: Jim Bachor tells us that the NYC Department of Transportation has already pulled up the cockroach, bouquet, Trump, and pigeon mosaics.
If you recently saw a construction worker filling potholes around Manhattan and Brooklyn with mosaics and thought it was a bit off, you were right. This was Chicago-based artist Jim Bachor in disguise for his latest public art piece, “Vermin of New York.” For the past five years, Jim has been filling potholes in Chicago with mosaics of everything from flowers to trash, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, he recently brought his work to NYC. The series includes a cockroach, a rat, a pigeon, and Donald Trump (yes, you can drive over his face). 6sqft was able to talk with Jim about how he got into such a unique form of “guerilla” art and what the meaning is behind his latest series.
Jim began his career as a graphic designer in the advertising business, but fell in love with ancient history when he went to to Europe for the first time in the late 1990s. He was drawn to the ancient art and how it all remains today, the most durable being the mosaics that look the same now as they did 2,000 years ago. “What else can claim that kind of staying power?” he says. This led him to Ravenna, Italy to take a course in the ancient art of mosaic, which then influenced his decision to make a shift towards fine art and changing people’s perception of what a mosaic can be. “My angle was contemporary subject matter that people didn’t see in this type of mosaic.” Jim notes that he’s not “breaking plates and using Elmer’s glue and putting it on cardboard,” but rather using the same materials, tools, and methods of ancient craftsmen.
Fast forward to 2013, a very bad post-winter pothole season in Chicago and on Jim’s own street, and he started to apply this philosophy to filling these potholes. “Temporarily fixed over and over again by city street crews, the potholes cried out for something more resilient, and far more aesthetically pleasing than a patch of asphalt,” he explains. Some of his early work included a series of serial numbers to represent the shear number of potholes in Chicago; a series of flowers, serving as a juxtaposition to the “universally ugly pothole;” and “Treats in the Streets,” mosaics of classic ice cream treats. He’s now done installations in Finland, LA, San Antonio, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
Part of how Jim travels to share his work is through Kickstarter campaigns, the most recent of which landed him in New York, where he just completed his series “Vermin of New York.” Why did he choose this topic? He says it goes back to the idea of “unexpected subject matter” that isn’t necessarily beautiful to begin with but “you make it pretty with this elegant art form.”
Though much of his work’s subject matter is very upbeat, Jim also likes to keep people on their toes. And while a rat and a cockroach are pretty standard NYC, including Donald Trump in the “Vermin” series has proved a bit more debatable. As Jim tells us, some right-wing followers who didn’t realize the portrait was part of a larger series commended him on the work. While others took it as an opportunity to “drive their car over his head.”
The fifth and final piece in Chelsea is a bouquet of flowers in Chelsea. “It’s to remind everyone that the series is fun, I’m not making fun of the city at all. It’s a big kiss to New York City.”
Look out for more of Jim’s work coming to Detroit this fall, where he’s trying to get 10 pieces on the ground. And for more updates, be sure to follow him on Instagram @jimbachor.
Here’s where you can find all the NYC works:
- Dead cockroach: Greenwich Village, Bleecker Street near Mercer Street
- Dead rat: Fort Greene, South Oxford Street
- Dead pigeon: Prospect Heights, Pacific Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
- Donald Trump: East Village, Second Street between First Avenue and Avenue A
- Bouquet: Chelsea, 515 West 25th Street
All photos © Jim Bachor