Sustainable Practice: GONZO247

by Rachel Hooper March 20, 2012

Aerosol Warfare has been a Houston institution for over twenty years, and for much of that time, GONZO247 has been the engine driving the website and studios. GONZO247 and his collaborators started by documenting street art they admired in a quarterly video magazine. The project has grown to include an exhibition space that has recently featured works by SEEN, Shepard Fairey, and Give Up.

Wax by the Fire: How would you describe your project (Aerosol Warfare) and your artwork as GONZO247? Do you see them as interrelated?

GONZO247: Aerosol Warfare is my home and GONZO247’s artwork is what I do inside of that home. Aerosol Warfare is its own entity that has been around for about 20 years. It was created to promote graffiti art and the culture. The goal was to act as ambassadors for graffiti and street art as educators and role models. We also strived to promote the artists by trying our best to create opportunities and connections for them. Aerosol Warfare is an urban art hub that encourages and inspires artists on all levels, including myself. We have always been about sharing and recording the graffiti culture, artists and urban gatherings.  We support those who support us. The goal is to showcase the graffiti community in a positive and inspiring light.

I put a lot of time and energy into promoting Aerosol Warfare and found myself, as an artist, through these years of experience. As co-founder of Aerosol Warfare opportunities for other artists also included opportunities for me. I’ve always been an artist by nature, but graffiti is where I felt most at home. Anywhere Aerosol Warfare goes, GONZO247 goes and vice versa.

My art as GONZO247 is where I really get to be creative in a more personal way.  I carve a niche of my life out for Aerosol Warfare, a niche out for family/hobbies/responsibilities and then a niche out for my art. I’ve been guilty of placing one before the other at times, but I try to do my best to have them balanced. Aerosol Warfare and my art are interrelated, because without the history of Aerosol Warfare, the people and the good times I would not be the artist with 20 years of history and experience that I am today. I did realize though that I can let go of some control within Aerosol Warfare since it is an ongoing revolving door of insight and inspiration on its own. This lets me make more art and time for myself as an artist. Today I take all the past productions, success, lessons, moments of what worked and what didn’t, the thrills, the exchange of positive vibes, the encounters with legendary artists, my own curiosity, the gratitude I feel for the people who wholeheartedly want to see me succeed and these same people who inspire me; I combine all these ingredients and throw them in a blender to help create my artwork.

WBTF: How did you come to the decision to forge your own path and start a new organization?

GONZO247: It was destiny. Running the day to day operations at AW is fun and rewarding, but a couple of years ago, I noticed a kind of void in my life, I wasn’t making enough of my own personal art. I had been wrapped up in promoting, showing and pushing other artists to the masses that my personal art had taken a back seat. I wanted to change my focus, remain an educator, but also spend some time finishing the artwork that I had yet to complete. I think I got comfortable being on the ‘services’ side of the art world and I missed the thrill of the full time art hunt. I’m currently branching out and making more of a defined statement of myself as an artist. I’m giving my art some breathing room. There are some projects that don’t necessarily fall under the scope of Aerosol Warfare that I hope to produce as well. Our space serves more as a studio now. Don’t get me wrong I still support every artist out there, but as much as they need my support; I’ll admit I also need support in return. It feels good to be around other artists who respect my past contributions, history and acquired knowledge as an artist.

WBTF: What do you do to sustain your work?

I pray. haha.  At this point, I’ve been doing what I do for more than half my life! It’s crazy when I think about it. I got into graffiti in 1985. I have no choice but to continue. What keeps me going is being certain in my mind that this is all worth it. Having faith that this is all going somewhere and touching someone in a positive way. This is all I know. I have so many ideas that I need to manifest and until I run out of ideas I won’t stop. My full time job is being an artist. It is what pays my bills, although half the time I re-invest the funds into making more artwork. In order to sustain as an artist I stay positive, I know how to have a good time, I don’t look back or analyze and I’m super cool with any type of lifestyle as long as I’m happy and my family’s having a good time too. This takes pressure off so I can be creative on various and versatile levels. “Arte sin frontera”

In addition, I do enjoy currently working part-time for Saint Arnold Brewery. It has turned out to a much needed break time from the studio during the week. They are super supportive of my art career and if I’m able to get a break here or there to enjoy my other hobbies, such as appreciating a beer, then this helps my passion to return to the studio.

WBTF: Who inspires you?

GONZO247: My wife is my muse! Creative people inspire me, not necessarily just artists, but all creative people. Mathematicians inspire me. I’m inspired and thankful for organizations like Glasstire that provide a voice for artists in Texas. Inspiration for me really comes from all around. In my early days as a Graffiti writer, I was inspired by the Old School NYC Subway Bombers. Writers like Futura, SEEN, Crash One, Dondi, LEE (among others) were the epitome. I was inspired by artists who I was pen pals with over letters, pictures and information from across the world. Right now we have a whole wall of hand written letters that I received and responded to with artists from all over about their local graffiti scene. It is amazing how much I exchanged with other artists pre-email. I was determined and as long as I was being inspired my hunger grew for more interaction. Later in life, my inspiration came from close friends/ fellow artists. If you surround yourself with awesome, like-minded people, the creative vortex can be amazing.

WBTF: What projects are you working on that you hope to realize someday?

GONZO247: Well… I always have a project on the back burner. I have learned to take a couple concepts at a time. It’s like a bucket list of projects that will be created sometime in the future, whether they are successful or not I don’t care I just check them off the list and like I said, don’t look back. I’m currently working on a series of large wall size plexi-glass murals that I hope to see in a gallery some day. I’m also spending time producing some Aerosol Warfare video projects.

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