Mario E. Figueroa, Jr. is a muralist and graffiti artist internationally known as GONZO247. Even if you’re new to Houston, you’ve likely already seen his distinctive work – on the walls of the George Bush International Airport, in Cheech Marin’s new Chicano Art and even on Top Chef.
Over the years GONZO has earned the city’s love and respect not only for his colorful style, but for his work mentoring, celebrating, and curating other artists in the city. The life-long Houstonian grew up in the East End and admired Leo Tanguma’s mural “The Rebirth of Our Nationality” at 5900 Canal Street. In 2017 GONZO helped renew the mural to its former glory. His style embraces both the visual elements of hip-hop culture with the long tradition of Mexican muralists.
Recently GONZO was in the park to talk about the changes he’s seen in Houston since Discovery Green opened in 2008.
“Having this central space it becomes this creative vortex,” he said. “It’s surrounded by all these great things in the city. It becomes a rallying point. It becomes a place where you start your adventure.”
When GONZO was growing up the Monument au fantôme by Jean Dubuffet was in downtown Houston in the 1100 block of Louisiana. His only interaction with the piece was to drive by it every now and then with his parents. Its new location in Discovery Green makes it easier for people to interact with.
“I think what’s best about it is you can actually go in it… Part of the beauty of this art is you have to be a participant and this allows you to engage with it. This puts the public back in public art.”
Watch the video above to see a tour of the Dubuffet as GONZO sees it.
Will there be a sculpture in GONZO’s future? We’ll just have to wait and see!