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Pizza-Eating Monkey Mural Makes its Debut in Pilsen

By Chloe Riley | April 19, 2013 8:00am | Updated on April 19, 2013 10:10am

PILSEN — Graffiti artists The Yok and Sheryo swear they’re not on drugs.

“It seems like we’re just taking acid and putting all this s--- together, but it really is a collection of what we’ve seen,” The Yok said.

The duo, who now live in Brooklyn, just put up a city-commissioned mural along 16th and Morgan streets as part of 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis’ public art initiative.

The viaduct wall now sports a Vulcan-eared monkey eating deep-dish pizza along with a sunglasses-wearing skeleton head wearing a hat that says “Zap Rap.”

The Yok and Sheryo won’t give their full names because of the time-honored tradition among graffiti artists not to reveal their identities.

That and they don’t want to get arrested for illegally spray-painting walls.

The Yok is a blonde 35-year-old Australian man with a penchant for surfing and Mad magazine. Sheryo, 29, hails from Singapore. She left her home country because of the strict punishment for graffiti artists: caning.

The couple started working together after a random meeting at a sidewalk cafe in Cambodia. Seeing similarities in their work, they banded together.

“I like to call her style 'leprosy' because it looks like the skin’s falling off of all her characters,” The Yok said of Sheryo’s work.

“Our styles have kind of merged,” Sheryo said. “We like to inject humor in our art. We bounce a lot of ideas around.”

Since meeting a year and a half ago, they’ve painted about 50 walls in Vietnam, Dubai, Mexico and New York.

The Yok said traveling allows them to see the “fables, gods and traditions” of other cultures, which in turn makes for some crazy, inspired art.

“It’s like, ‘Remember that Hanuman monkey god? Let’s get him on a skateboard,'” he said.

The artists were connected to the Pilsen art project through Pawn Works, a public art collective contracted by the 25th Ward to bring national and international artists to work on 25th Ward public art projects.

Nick Marzullo, co-director at Pawn Works, said Chicago has a history of famous public art by international artists.

“It’s about overall awareness. By working with international artists, you start to intermix the worlds,” he said.

The Yok and Sheryo head back to New York Friday, but if you’d like to grab a small piece of their work for yourself, you can find them on Instagram and snag a hand-drawn graphic on a postal sticker for just $5.

Find The Yok at @kingbrown and Sheryo at @spacecandy.