GONZO247: The Graffiti Artist
Graffiti artist Mario Figueroa (better known as GONZO247) calls himself “the last man holding down the fort” over at Aerosol Warfare, the downtown Houston alternative-arts organization that’s been around since the ’90s.
Warfare began as a collective of graffiti and street artists, working “to give the average person the opportunity to experience what this art form has to offer,” as Figueroa, a native Houstonian, says. But as other artists moved on to greener pastures, Figueroa, now 45, kept the doors open for spray-painting hopefuls to come in and create. “A lot of them had their first show at Aerosol Warfare,” he says. “A lot of them cut their teeth through our gallery walls and figured out, you know, how that whole system worked.”
Thanks to Warfare, the once-renegade world of street art is now just another part of the Houston cultural scene. “I feel great that Aerosol Warfare was able to forge that path to allow what’s happening today [to] happen,” Figueroa says. The collective’s typical projects focus on making and spotlighting vibrant urban art through installations, video productions, and collaborative events such as the Houston Urban Experience (HUE) Mural Festival this November, which will feature murals from artists locally and around the world. “The goal is to be able to bring more art to the city streets, bring more color to the visual landscape, or to create that visual tapestry for the city through murals and mural production,” he says.
But Figueroa has also been taking time out to work on more GONZO247 productions, using Warfare’s downtown space as his personal studio. “My art always took a backseat, because I was promoting someone else or selling other people’s art,” he says. “So now, I’m giving attention to myself at the same rate I was giving [it to] other people.”