The urban legend is that she was carrying a shotgun, but GONZO247 will neither confirm nor deny that. I was there and I don’t even know. It was 1994 and I was working in an old schoolhouse in Third Ward, making screens for Calico Print Company, when I looked out of the window and saw two guys in baggy pants and backwards hats, covered in spray paint, staring up at the big smooth concrete wall that bordered the property. I thought my boss is going to eat those guys alive, and went back to work. She was out there talking to them when I looked again, and it didn’t look good! When I passed by the window a third time, GONZO247 and MERGE360 were out there spray painting on the wall, and I thought, “These guys are freaking politicians.”
What became known as the “Wall of Fame” was the start of graffiti art coming out of the shadows in Houston. GONZO grew up in the East End and had come up bombing trains and tagging his name all around the city, but he was thinking bigger.
“Graffiti kinda needed a face in Houston,” he said. “There needed to be a hand to shake, something to connect to this art form that was being put up in the middle of the night. People fear the unknown, so if I can put a face on it, then – and not that I ever really claimed to represent the entire community, I’m just saying, ‘Hey, you can look at me. I can talk to you about this.’ My goal was that if they no longer fear it because there’s a hand to shake or a face to see, then maybe that would open up opportunities and that way every step I took forward I could bring other people another step closer.”
Crossing paths with my old boss MICKEY PHOENIX was early in a journey that Gonzo has networked through the underground, opening a storefront for his arts collective Aerosol Warfare, selling vinyl toys, books, clothing apparel, spray paint and prints and then finally coming to a point where his own art (the latest of which includes aerosol paint in layered Plexiglas) is his primary focus. His wife manages his career now, and a series of
partnerships and collaborations with businesses, arts organizations and nonprofits continues to take him into uncharted territory.
In September, GONZO247 was honored by the City of Houston for his work, and this month his full attention is directed toward the HUE Mural Festival Inspired by Houston First; the second annual event showcases local and international artists creating murals in alliance with property owners around the city.
“Last year we had over 75 artists featured throughout the city,” he said, “producing over 50 individual murals through the festival, and we had 12 international street artists. This gave me a great opportunity to bring the world to Houston, and the locals can gauge where they’re at with their art seeing these international artists coming in, and what they leave behind is inspiring.”
This year, 100 creatives will be involved; artists from France, Iran and Puerto Rico will come to soak up the Houston hospitality and leave their own impression.
“Pretty much all the walls from last year are going to run and then we’re going to add to the visual landscape of the city. If you’re driving from one mural site to the next, visually there’s not much going on as far as art, so we’re trying to fill in all those gaps.”
HUE Mural Festival Inspired by Houston First October 15–22 at The Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas