Raúl Gonzalez was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up going back and forth between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, México. In 2009, Gonzalez received an award from the Artadia Foundation for Art and Culture and in 2012 he received a Mass Cultural Council grant for Drawing. His work has been exhibited widely in the northeast including the Aidekman Gallery at Tufts University in Medford, MA, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA and The Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston, Ogunquit Museum of American Art as well as on the west at SCION Installation, San Francisco Art Institute, Mission Cultural Center and Self-Help Graphics in Los Angeles. Gonzalez who lived in Somerville for years, recently moved to Medford, with his wife Elaine Bay and their infant son Raúl, IV. He is represented by Carroll and Sons, Boston and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.
What’s a brief overview of what you do?
My work today is very autobiographical and epic in scope. Series usually range in the hundreds and are linked one to the other by recurring characters that bounce in and out of the frame and symbols whose meanings become no less mysterious from picture to picture. My work is large-scale drawings, found and reused objects, and videos of fractured visual and aural static used to create immersive installations reflecting a world often ignored and rarely portrayed. Roosters wielding weapons perform acts of violence, fueled by a culture of hyper-machismo. The after-effects are visible in beaten and bruised faces and in panoramas littered with body parts. The poor and abused appear in the guise of faceless hair-dos, flea-bitten dogs, and faces hardened by what their eyes have been forced to see. The drawings are downtrodden as well, bleached in the sun and left behind as litter. Yet they are beautifully rendered in a language of old cartoons, cultural stereotypes and images of the old-time west. Stained with coffee, and drawn in crayon, Bic pen and acrylic the work explores the depth of human cruelty and compassion.
Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up?
I have four major exhibitions this summer into the fall including Los Nuevos Guerreros at Carroll and Sons Gallery in July; Gran Exitos y la Obra de Sobrevivir at the Nancy Beland Gallery in June; a three person exhibition at the Alden Gallery in Provincetown in August; and my first ever solo exhibition at a museum at New Hampshire Museum of Art in Durham, New Hampshire in October.
I am also working on my first graphic novel co-created by myself and the amazing writer Cathy Camper. The book is Lowriders in Space, and will be published by Chronicle Books in fall of 2014. I hope to see you there!!
How did you get where you are? And what made you want to start?
I started exhibiting work at such wonderful places as the Someday Cafe and the Diesel Cafe with the Miracle Five and at the time I was only creating Comicbook art. I remember sitting in those cafes staring at the walls and imagining what piece I should make for the given space, this experience was very valuable to me and I did the very same thing 5 years later at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston.
My mentors have always been my wife Elaine Bay, who has taught me so much about art, and my parents and brothers and my close friends, as well as a long list of artists whose footsteps I follow. My big breaks in Boston have been many and I am grateful that so many people have trusted me to undertake so many projects at places like the MFA Boston, ICA Boston, Carroll and Sons, Tufts University, Boston University and Boston Center for the Arts. I didn't attend art school, but having these commitments has been the most exciting and positive learning experience that anyone could ask for.
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. My brother Ruben once said that one of the only things he can remember me doing was drawing. I always viewed drawing as my escape both into other worlds and possibly into a world where drawing was the only thing needed of me-- it helped me make sense of the world. I was a terrible high school student, and I dropped out of college early on as I feared the "back-up plan" everyone kept telling me I should focus on. I have never wanted a back-up plan, art was it, so I have been fighting ever since.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene?
I love Somerville and really do credit the community, local business owners and fellow artists with helping me to develop into the artist I am today. Somerville is filled with weekly events featuring our talented community and if you are one of these people the door is always open!