Two or three decades ago they were teenagers, Mario Gonzalez Jr. among them, tagging beneath bridges and alongside old abandoned buildings. Now they’re all grown up, mature visual artists who have exchanged the thrill of spraying a subway train for the comfort of painting in a warm studio space. At the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport, a group of these urban legends are receiving some well deserved attention. From Friday, Jan. 18 through Saturday, Feb. 9, Gonzalez will be presenting their works in his historically significant curatorial project, “Has Beens & Wannabes.” Concurrently, a solo exhibition by Gonzalez called “Style Bombing” will be presented at 33 Contemporary Gallery within the art center.
The art form was disregarded as vandalism by most, hailed as democratic public art by a few. “A whole generation of artists was dismissed,” Gonzalez said. “We were ahead of our time.” While a few places, like Mars Gallery and Randolph Street Gallery, embraced outsider art and offered shows to the young artists, the city’s firm anti-graffiti sentiment aimed to sweep the kids’ work under the rug. But the graffiti writers persisted, slowly making their marks and flourishes both here and abroad. Twenty-one of these creative visionaries who started out in the '80s and '90s, including the talented James Jankowiak, Chris Silva, and Tyrone Whiteside, have been gathered together by Gonzalez. Having pioneered one of the most controversial and influential urban art movements of our time, they continue to expand their artistic vision.
Say what you will about graffiti on the streets or subway trains, works by Mario Gonzalez Jr., a.k.a. ZORE, are joyously alive. In the somber world of contemporary art, ZORE's large scale paintings are thrilling combination of letterforms, long brushstrokes, and paint drips on abstract monochromatic surfaces. His lines are spontaneous and yet controlled, like a skater’s perfect figures on ice, dashing, curving, and landing with aplomb. Using raw and reclaimed materials such as wood panels, old furniture pieces, crates, and door scraps, Gonzalez tags each painting with the confident strokes of one who has spent years mastering his craft.
Born in 1970 in Chicago, “ZORE” Mario Gonzalez Jr. has been creating art since he was eleven. At seventeen Gonzalez received a full scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has lived in New York, Brazil, and the Bay Area, and he has traveled the globe painting subways and murals, performing, and teaching art. His work has been exhibited throughout Europe and in South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil.
On Friday, Jan. 18 from 7-10 pm the Zhou B Art Center will be hosting an opening to celebrate both “Has Beens and Wannabes” and “Style Bombing.” Style Bombing was curated by artist and 3C Wear founder Sergio Gomez. The opening is held in conjunction with the Zhou B. Art Center’s “Third Fridays” in which the center’s galleries and artists’ studios are open to the public. The Art Center and 33 Contemporary Gallery are located at 1029 W. 35th St, 1st Floor, Chicago.