In Mound City, Juan William Chávez Explores St. Louis' Landscape


  • Mound City.

One of St. Louis' older names is Mound City, which comes from the enormous earthen mounds raised by the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture on both sides of the river. Ironically, only one mound — Sugar Loaf — remains on the St. Louis side, and yet the name persists.

Artist Juan William Chávez drew inspiration from these structures for his new show, Mound City, which opens this weekend at Cherokee Street's Flood Plain gallery. The work is inspired by the built environment of St. Louis past and present.

For Chávez, the landscape is a looming influence. Born in Peru, Chávez spent most of his formative years in St. Louis, where his mother comes from. The juxtaposition of two vastly different geographic and ecological environments plays a large role in Mound City.

“The ruins you see in the Andes Mountains are definitely similar to the Cahokia mounds," Chávez says. The visual similarities don't stop there: "The Amazon River juxtaposed with the Mississippi, the industrial agriculture that happens here versus the agricultural innovations that happen in the mountains of Peru."

  • Mound City.

Mound City uses that as a jumping-off point, but also incorporates the city's detritus.

"A lot of the objects I have used in projects related to gardening, some objects I found just walking around and observing St. Louis,” Chávez explains. "Mound City is a more personal presentation of how I think about place, or St. Louis."

These meditations on the landscape and its history is what is at the heart of the work. Mound City features a variety of mediums: installations of found and specially built objects, drawings and weaving. Individual artworks serve as lenses to view the mound cities of Chávez's creative vision and the region's past.

Mound City opens with a free reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, August 25, at Flood Plain (3151 Cherokee Street; The Show continues through September 22.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.