Chicago-based graff writer-turned fine artist Mario Gonzalez Jr., also known as Zore, has been keeping busy this summer. He just had a killer solo show at the Museo Internazionale Italia Arte, and represented the US in the International Meeting of Styles in Wiesbaden, Germany, before heading back to the states to prepare for MoS Chi and a solo show this fall at Maxwell Colette.
We caught up with him before his European tour, while he was painting the Violet Hour mural.
How did you first get into graffiti and painting? Believe or not my exposure to graffiti was since birth. My parents and family members wrote on buildings and subway stations here in Chicago since the early 60s. Later on in my youth I grew up in the 70s where muralist and activist took over the streets of Chicago.
Do you remember your first tag? My first "tag" was JR/JUNIOR in tall simple blockish letters when I was like 9 or 10.
Any good close call stories you can share with us? Lots of "close call" stories...but the best were subway stories... Like the times we would get caught right outside the subway yards with a car full of young mixed race kids with bags of paint and the cops are like "wtf is going on here," and I would tell everyone the same story, "I'm an artist at SAIC! And these are my students and we've been painting all night and I'm dropping them off at the train station," hearts racing knowing damn well half the crew was in the train yards painting already...probably even watching us from the yards talking to the cops, only to be let loose half hour later.
Have you bombed anything you later regretted? One of my biggest regrets came early in life..I must have been 15 and I would keep tagging the same wall on 35 st day after day only to see it had been cleaned the next day. Till one day I was on the 35 st bus and saw this old ass man that walked slower than a snail scrubbing and scrubbing away and it was then I vowed to keep my bombing to public property...which in the end was a good thing.
Where do you draw your inspiration? My studio work comes from hanging out at museums and walking the streets my whole life observing the urban grime. My tags are inspired by old Chicago hand styles. My full on burners have more of a Trixter/Orko feel. Two writers that influenced the crap out of true Chicago pieces.
How do you feel about graffiti moving into galleries? Graffiti in museums and Galleries have occurred longer than 90% of us been writing.. One of the first graffiti exhibits in the world was here in Chicago at the museum of science and industry in 1973! I was 3 yrs old..lol!
I've been showing in galleries and museums since the mid 80s and it changes nothing. I believe that knowing our place in art history is important seeing that most artists have no place in history. Makes me feel proud for never quitting or giving up.
Mario VS Zore? Well that is an interesting subject right there... I believe that both of my alter egos have a place in this world and the man/child inside of me must harvest this energy and make them both function on a level that won't end up killing me, lol. I've been working my whole life developing both souls and staying clear from negative energy from both the art world and graff world, as well and have come to the conclusion that life is about living the best case scenario.
As I sit here in a hallway for better reception in a bed and breakfast from across the world knowing where I came from and where I am now having solo shows in museums and galleries while painting in the streets and packing bags of paint at night fully sponsored as well as self funded from sales and commissions I would say that I am right where I need to be Right Now!
Would like to say thanks to my familia! Sergio Gomez! The Zhou Family! Liz Lazdins and MAYA for everything that I am doing today. Stay Bold Chicago!