Surreal mural takes over former Tecalitlan space in West Town as Barcocina restaurant plans to move in

WEST TOWN – A mural of a huge fish has popped up outside the former Tecalitlan space in West Town before another restaurant moved this year.

Tecalitlan, formerly at 1814 W. Chicago Ave., closed in 2020 after 47 years of selling tacos and margaritas in the neighborhood. After trying to find a new location in West Town, the owners reopened the Lincoln Park restaurant in 2021.

Now Lakeview Mexican Restaurant Barcocine is moving into the Chicago Avenue store, according to a banner hanging outside the building. A Barcocina representative said the owners would have more details closer to the restaurant’s opening.

Meanwhile, local artist Joseph Renda Jr. has partnered with the West Town Chamber of Commerce to paint the temporary mural outside the store.

Titled “I Swear It Was This Big!”, the mural is an enlarged version of one of Renda’s paintings, which will be featured in a show in the Ukrainian village next month. The show, Larger Than Life, runs June 4-25 at the Vertical Gallery, 1016 N. Western Ave.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Detail of a new mural in West Town outside the old Tecalitlan space by local artist Joseph Renda Jr.

Renda said the West Town mural was inspired by memories of fishing with his grandfather and a classic fisherman bragging about how big the catch – or would have been.

“It’s always that ‘I swear that fish was so big’ thing,” he said.

But the mural also ties into larger themes present in Renda’s paintings about nature and humanity’s connection to it, he said.

“We can see it in a positive way where we have a positive connection with nature. Or we can do it in a way that uses nature to our advantage. It’s deforestation, oil spills and stuff like that that takes away resources from the earth,” Renda said. “I want the viewer to look at the paintings and choose their path and what they want to do in the future.”

Since graduating from art school in 2018, Renda has combined street art with more traditional practices, working on murals and smaller oil paintings.

Renda said he was inspired by famous surrealist painters, including Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and André Breton.

“When I came out [of school], I was like, I want to make surrealism a work that fits into urban art and also continue to use my knowledge that I just learned for four years in school, learning to paint at the oil,” he said. “I think [surrealism] is just a way to conceptualize an idea and not just hit someone over the head with it, and make them think in a weird and unique way. So that’s what I tried to do with this project.

Renda, who works out of a studio in West Town, said he hooked up with the chamber this year to paint the mural.

Renda expects the mural to be displayed in its current location for the next four to six months, he said. After that, he hopes to find a permanent location for work.

Credit: Provided
A flyer for an upcoming art exhibition by muralist and painter Joseph Renda Jr. in the Ukrainian village

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