Cultural upbringing is a powerful influence in development and identity. The spaces that we occupy in moments of growth have long lasting effects. I remember the torterilla that my mother would frequent when we lived in Tijuana. The memory evokes a smell, the aroma of masa brushing against my nose. They would provide all their customers with a free tortilla, my lips anticipating a taste of history that goes back to pre-Columbian times. For Ricardo Gonzalez, the mercado resonates with his upbringing.
Mercado is a spanish word for a market. They have a certain kind of energy in the United States. Mercados retain the history of their culture. In this case, Mexican mercados tend to have bright, colorful signs and advertisements. The folk stories of the Mexican people can be heard in song, known as corridos. The Spanish tongue dominates, making you feel like you are in a different world, travelling to a different country just by stepping into a store.
Gonzalez’s Our Hood, Our Pride brings the familiarity of the mercado in artistic signs meant to draw attention to the neighborhood and the space. He attempts to capture the pride of the barrio, something that all residents can embrace and connect with. Yet, he keeps the signs authentic, each one with a series of numbers for the viewer to recognize as a piece of advertisement housed in these mercados.
The familiarity of the his art resonates, not only with the viewer but with Gonzalez as well. His work reflects his personality, his culture of a positivity. Markets transcends skin color and heritage. Daily purchases are made in markets, welcoming everyone. These spaces are an inspiration. The hustle, the culture. The paletero walking around the neighborhood, the mother selling tamales on the street corner, these are people working within their own culture out of need and necessity. Mercados are an extension of the entrepreneur, the spirit of celebrating one’s heritage in business.
For Gonzalez, his art is his business, his livelihood. Labels of “artist” don’t make sense. Instead, he looks to that of a vendor, that spirit that he grew around. The craft of representing your history, your roots, and making a living out of it. Gonzalez is a worker, hoping to be on the same level as the people he respects; where street vendors are polite, humble individuals, working outside egotistic realms. They provide a service, a respectable one. Gonzalez does the same with his art.
How much power does a word have? What kind of influence does it have on our identity? On the perception of others? What kind of change can one word produce?
Gonzalez believes that artists are an easy target of ridicule, at times, for good reason. The contemporary artwork can be exclusive, claimed by the highly educated, academic elites that dictate what is and isn’t art, rarely including families or individuals of a low socioeconomic status. A worker can shed such burdens, a worker can by anyone. The worker is the paletero, the street vendor. The worker is the butcher, the janitor, or the owner of the mercado. The worker is the college student with a full time job, the mother working two jobs under the table, with little comprehension of the English language, raising a family on a few hours of sleep. It can be a successful business owner, a musician, a bartender, computer programmer, engineer, the doctor working third shift in the emergency room. The worker is you and I.
Our Hood, Our Pride is simple, accessible. It’s positive, full of hope and honor that has always existed. It’s the echos of our childhood, the voices of the present, hand-in-hand, celebrating the perseverance of history and culture. This place is happy. It welcomes you to enter the barrio. To experience the love of the people, the respect we have for one another.
Enter a different reality. Experience the artwork, the dancers, the musical shows, the theatrical performances. Realize that this community is alive.
It welcomes you.
What will you share with us?
Ricardo Gonzalez explores numerous topics within his artwork including Chicanx culture, identity, celebration, and popular iconography. The imagery in his work mirrors the branding of a culture and that has very limited representation in popular media. His focus is not on how to solve problems but rather to embrace questioning issues surrounding his ethnicity that he finds discomforting. In the face of adversity and barriers, Chicanx always find methods to make a message blunt, creative, and sarcastic. The body of his work reflects his honor, humor, and criticism regarding his ethnicity.
Ricardo currently curates exhibitions, mural projects, and collaborations with several artists. His fascination with materials runs parallel with his fascination with artists. He is enthusiastic about studio practice but also considers the mindset of art creation and advocacy to reach beyond the traditional studio setting.
Born in Chicago’s Cook County hospital but raised in Blue Island Illinois, the demographic is a working-class community close to the suburbs and close to the city of Chicago. He is drawn to artwork naturally out of curiosity and a fascination of comic books and cartoons.
He received his BFA in Illustration in 2005 from the American Academy of Art and eventually dedicated himself to being a teaching artist as well as a full time practicing artist doing murals and exhibitions. He completed his MFA in painting from Kendall College of Art and Design in spring of 2016.