Mario Gonzalez Jr. at Zhou B Art Center

Friday, September 14 closes one of my favorite shows of this year. Not that the other ones were not great but this one I had the privilege to work closely with a great friend and artist who I admire dearly. After our meeting in Turin, Italy this Summer, time just went fast leading up to the show.  Mario is quick, assertive and genuine in his art making process.  I saw him doing his thing a few times and it all just flows from within. Read the paragraphs below to get to know more about the man behind “ZORE”.

Mario Gonzalez Jr. is one of the most sought-after international graffiti writers living today.  His expressive work and artistic versatility extends from street walls to museums and galleries around the world. The exhibition ZORE at the Zhou B Art Center is the conclusion of a sixty-four day international tour which started late last year in San Francisco and continued to South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy culminating in Chicago. In his first major solo exhibition in the US, Mario Gonzalez Jr., known in the graffiti world as ZORE, brings together a fusion of street styles, colorful letter forms and abstract monochromatic large scale paintings.

Drawing from a vast life experience of constant traveling, exploration, self-expression, street culture and art history, ZORE’s unique artistic vision embraces an urban world voice that resinates deeply beyond borders and simultaneously delves with force between fine and street art. His restless search for what he calls “the perfect beat” continues to thrive his insatiable curiosity for life, community and inspiration.

ZORE at the Zhou B Art Center

Born in 1970 and raised in the city of Chicago, Graffiti Writer “ZORE” Mario Gonzalez Jr. has witnessed the beautiful murals and the vast dead land of inner city decay while playing as a child under bridges and abandoned buildings from Lincoln Park to South Chicago steel mills. At the early age of 11, exposed to urban art forms such as the custom lowrider culture, DJs and breakbeats, he picked up a marker and started scrawling on any surface available to him.

The neighborhood and Mario’s father were instrumental for the learning of the “styles” as he began to comprehend the art of the letterform which came natural to him. Soon, the new and improved artform of the subways became the only natural venue for him to express his “styles”.

At the age of 17, Mario received a full scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has utilized various art forms and genres to create, destruct and push himself not only in the Graffiti and Fine Art but in life itself. Mario traveled the globe painting subways, murals, performing, teaching and showing works in galleries and museums “searching for the perfect beat” which he had always carried all along.

In 2002, he started painting smaller works that he called “Graffpop” because Graffiti was a mainstream art phenomenon. It was then that Mario began painting in larger scale while opening a studio at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago.  In his new studio and surrounded by a vibrant art community, Mario fused all the elements that he had experienced over the years such as pouring, dripping, drawing and using non-traditional techniques and processes. These new approach culminated into a style of urban abstract graffiti and expressionism that is now highly acclaimed by local and international galleries and museums.

Recently, Mario completed a 64-day world tour which began with an artist in residence in Gwangju, South Korea that included a two person exhibition.  Following a month stay in South Korea, Mario was invited to return for a solo exhibition as well as participation in the Gwangju Bianalle 2014. He was sponsored by the US Consulate to represent Chicago in the International Meeting of Styles in Wiesbaden, Germany this Summer and also received an invitation for a solo show in Bangkok for the winter of 2012. Mario’s journey brought him to Turin, Italy to participate in Art Energy Future, a group exhibition curated by Sergio Gomez at the Regional Museum of Natural Science.

In ZORE, this free-spirited individual and urban world citizen has landed at the Zhou B Art Center to make his mark as one of today’s most versatile contemporary artists.

Sergio Gomez
Curator, Zhou B Art Center