Artist Raul Gonzalez has become known for his colorful dance performances, and for a number of text based series of work consisting of sculpture, paintings, and drawings. Since graduating with a masters in fine art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in December 2014, Gonzalez has been quite active within the local art community.
In February, 3rd Space Art Gallery hosted “Life, Death, and Other Stories,” a solo exhibition of work by Gonzalez. More recently, his work was included in "Move Me" the CAM Perennial exhibition at the Museo Guadalupe closing May 23, and the "Texas Size Breach Collaborative: From El Paso to San Antonio," which runs through June 14 at the Texas A&M Educational and Cultural Arts Center.
On Thursday, May 21, “Dulce” an exhibition of recent work by Gonzalez will open at the Guadalupe Theatre Gallery, 1301 Guadalupe St. An opening reception will be held from 7-9 p.m. The show runs through July 22. For the exhibition opening, Gonzalez will saw off a piece of his cake painting for anybody who wants to buy a slice.
“Dulce” comprises two bodies of work – a 2011 series titled “Candy Shop” inspired by Mexican candies, and a second more experimental series produced this year that expands on the same topic.
The following is an edited interview where Gonzalez discusses his love for dancing, the evolution of his work, and recent exhibitions. He reveals a shift that occurred in his work in the months leading up to “Dulce.”
Marco Aquino: There was a lot of dancing at your MFA show. Why has dancing become so important in your work?
Raul Gonzalez: For me, it became almost like an extension of painting. I realized dancing wasn’t just dancing for me – it was a way of expressing myself, but it was something I had kept private. When I was a teenager, I used to watch music videos and learn all the dance moves. For a while, I wanted to be a backup dancer for pop stars like Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake. So now, I just feel confident enough to let that be a part of who I am rather than hold it back. It’s always been there – I’m finally just comfortable now to put myself in front of people.
MA: In February, you had a solo show at 3rd Space Art Gallery called “Life, Death, and Other Stories.” How did the title of that show come about and what kind of work did you show?
RG: There were two big things happening in my life. One of them was the birth of my daughter. At the same time that she was born, my mom went into the hospital, where she stayed for several months, and ultimately ended up with her passing away. So it was really a reflection of seeing those two things happen at the same time, you know, watching a person grow in front of me every day, and also someone else fade away every day. It was really a reflection of those two things and how it made me feel.
MA: How did that affect your work?
RG: It made me feel comfortable taking more risks in the work that I showed. Some of the work in that show was more experimental. A lot of the work consisted of abstract compositions. I felt like I allowed my emotional side to show and I became comfortable with it. A lot of that show was putting pieces together that really allowed me to see how material meshed with each other and made sense.
MA: Talk about the upcoming exhibition. Why “Dulce?”
RG: I had been talking to Mark Anthony Martinez, the interim visual arts director at the Guadalupe. He came to my studio and we looked at different work. I showed him this body of work that I started back in 2011 called the “Candy Shop.” They were these “pop art” sculptural paintings where I use only canvas and acrylic. Back then I really wanted to highlight that Mexican culture and how we look at it. The work that I’m making now is similar but now I’m working more abstractly. So we thought it would be interesting to show these two bodies of work together. We have the “pop art” sculptural paintings made to look like actual candies, or candy wrapper, along with the work I’m making now that has that same sort of sensuality and use of bright colors. By showing both bodies of work, we sort of give the audience an entry point with the sculptural candy into the more (experimental) contemporary work. The newer paintings – a lot of them are double sided paintings. I paint on the front side and the backside so it’s not just a painting hanging on the wall – it’s treated like an object.
MA: Would you say your work addresses your identity as a Mexican American?
RG: When I think about growing up, the first thing I think about is the food we ate. So when I made the candy – it’s about the food we ate, and how important food is, and how food is something that we all relate to because it’s something that we all need. At the same time, just because it’s a Mexican candy doesn’t mean it’s just for Mexican Americans. It’s not something I really think about anymore. I used to, but now I just make work about anything that feels important to me. I don’t think about it and I don’t really try to categorize myself as a Mexican American artist.
MA: How has your work evolved over the years?
RG: I’m still interested in the same topics. I think I’ve allowed myself to just experiment more. I think I have been moving a lot into abstraction. I feel it’s something a wider audience can relate to. Also, I’ve started to use my body more. When I’m dancing around the room I feel like I’m creating a painting with my movement and the interaction I’m having with the space. Now, it’s like drawing and painting come to me almost like living. They can always change and I can do them anyway I want to. I feel I have less limitations then I had before.
*Featured/top image: Raul Gonzalez and daughter working on "Prickly Pear" at his home studio. Courtesy photo.