Q&A: Ricardo Gonzalez, Mexican Pop Art Personified

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Chicago Remezcla meets contemporary Mexican-American pop artist, Ricardo Gonzalez. Give the man a pallet of basic primary colors and he’ll paint you a snapshot of what he calls “Kitsch Latino art.” Think Mexican eye candy with his renditions of your favorite snacks growing up, illustrations of the party inside your brain when the paletero man came around or your mom surprised you with a Pelón from the corner store. Sprinkle some traditional iconography from the conquest, Aztec traditions, and the Chicago classics inspired from our neighborhoods, and that’s Ricardo Gonzalez in an abstract nut shell.



Name: Ricardo Gonzalez
Age: 27
Roots: South side Chicago/Blue Island (“My family came to Chicago from Michoacan, Mx.  I’m the second child in my family to be born in the U.S.”)
Day job: Multiple jobs, acrylic painting instructor at South Chicago Art Center and mural/art instructor for After School Matters at Bogan High School.
Current obsessions/addictions: 8bit/16bit culture (video gaming culture from late ’80s-’90s).
Guilty pleasure(s): Muppets, especially Kermit.
Recent musical discovery: Quiero Club.
Best recent meal: Unos tacos de Atotonilco.
Movie that best represents your life: Frida.
Last book you read: “The Dawn of Day” by Nietzsche.


Define your art.

I like to think of myself a painter of Latino contemporary culture, most specifically Mexican American pop. I also have a body of work that is based on Mexican surrealism as inspired by the great muralists. I have recently been leaning toward painting in a more representational (realistic) style, however I have still kept the basic theme of Latino culture/identity the main focus. I try to include all aspects from history to the common day iconography.

When did you start this type of work?

I started doing surrealism and still-life paintings based on Mexican history/culture in about 2005 after studying the history of Mexico for personal pleasure. In 2010 I started to take a lighter approach to the culture and focused on painting simple images like candy, ice cream, and other treats. I’m recently focusing on developing my ability to render more accurately and including more portraits and figures in my new work.

Tells us about your choice of materials?

I studied using graphite (pencil), some charcoal, and watercolor paint. The past two years of painting I have focused on acrylic paints only. I find acrylic paint a very versatile medium that can be applied to almost any surface and is fairly easier to maintain/clean up.

Whats the best compliment for your work?

People seem to love some of the lighter non-political work sometimes, I really like it when random strangers feel like kids again when looking at some of my pop art work. So many people were like kids at a candy shop looking at some of myPaletón or “Pelón Pelo Rico” paintings. I also received many good compliments on a portrait of my grandmother, everyone seemed to love it and say how much it reminded them of they’re own grandmother.

Does all your work have a message?

Most of my paintings have been created for specific exhibits or gallery shows, so I always had a theme. Some of the themes for my artwork range from support of immigration reform, Mexican history and indigenous culture, contemporary youth, identity, and the commercial or kitsch iconography. The largest message I can think of is the general praise of the culture and positive light on the everyday working class hero.

How has Chicago influenced your work?

Chicago has shaped me as an artist. I studied at the American Academy of Art which had instructed me on the French traditional manner of drawing/painting.  I learned watercolor painting in college and visited museums and sat in on life drawing model sessions. Once I graduated from my undergrad studies I felt that some of my work showed my competence and technical skill but the art had only glimpses of soul. I had to start learning more of my family roots and visited many of the humble working class neighborhoods in Chicago in which I felt I could identify and capture more soul than elsewhere in Chicago. Little by little, I met most of my contemporary Chicago painting gurus which also had a huge part in my current body of work. Pilsen, Little Village, Rogers Park, Wrigleyville, and many neighborhoods have given me much to work from.

Any current projects?

At the moment I am working on two paintings for a benefit at National Museum of Mexican Art. It will be for an auction being held to assist former instructor Francisco Mendoza. I am also busy with getting my classes organized for my art students so that is taking a portion of my work time. I always create artwork so often I find myself being invited to a show or two here and there during the year.

Plans for the future?

I hope to keep my productivity up and perhaps land more work in Mexico. I like to do group shows and hope to keep doing more and any solo show opportunities that may come. I aspire to have more classes to instruct on art making and be more active with communities in art. I also completed my first exterior mural in the summer of 2010, I hope to be more involved in mural-making opportunities that come.


See more of Ricardo Gonzalez’s work HERE.