LINCOLN PARK — When Arturo Avendano arrived in Chicago from Mexico City with his wife and three girls in tow, he took a gamble and decided to start a business on the one subject he knew well — fine art.
"I said we have to make some money to be able to survive, and the only thing that I knew, because I did it in Mexico, was to work in the fine arts," Avendano said.
That was 16 years ago, and although Avendano closed his Lincoln Park-based La Llorona gallery for a two-year stretch, he is preparing to reopen the space this Friday.
La Llorona Art Gallery is among the only galleries on the North Side that specializes in Latino fine arts, he said.
"It doesn't matter than I'm far from my community, because now Latinos are all over," he said, noting that when he first opened the business most Mexicans and Latinos lived and worked on the South and West sides.
Since the gallery opened at 1474 W. Webster Ave. in 1996, the work of more than 100 artists, ranging from emerging photographers to well-established painters, have been displayed.
The gallery will reopen Friday night for good with the first exhibit featuring a complete series of drawings by renowned Mexican artist Felipe Ehrenberg.
The "Endless Death" collection of 55 digital prints is related to the Dia de los Muertos.
The opening reception will run from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Avendano and his wife closed the gallery in July 2011 to move back to Mexico City and help start a museum showcasing the art and lives of Mexican immigrants. He remained the owner of the Chicago building, which sat vacant while he was gone.
The museum's goal was to show the Mexico City residents how their relatives who have left the country are living and working all over the world.
Those relatives left for places like Chicago, San Francisco, Vancouver and London.
"People there, they don't know," Avendano said. "They say, 'My father took off and went to Texas and all I know is that every month he sends me $400.'"
In December La Llorona will exhibit photographs documenting the deportation experience of Elvira Arellano, an undocumented Mexican woman who was seeking asylum in a West Side church with her child.
Arellano was named one of Time Magazine's People of the Year in 2006.
In January, the gallery will host a solo show by Chicago artist Rebecca Wolfram, and in March the gallery will feature a group show of 20 artists from Mexico City.
Avendano, who recently moved back to Chicago and now lives above the gallery with his wife, plans to return to Mexico City within a year's time with plans of opening a permanent gallery there.
One of the early exhibits in that space will feature photography of neighborhood life in Pilsen and Little Village so that citizens in Mexico City can see a window into their relatives'' world.
"This is my field. This is my life and this is my history," Avendano said. "This is what I'm trying to do."