WTFIRGO — Alfonso Gonzalez Jr.
As a teenager, Alfonso Gonzalez Jr. would go back and forth between the ranches of La Puente, the warehouses of the City of Industry, and the chaos Downtown LA. It was in these places that he was inspired by graffiti and photography. During solitary trips to industrial parts of the city, Alfonso found a passion for painting, an activity he grew up around because of a dad who specialized in painting signs for businesses. The performance art of everyday life, inspired him to create multi-media textured pieces that reflect the layers of the city. Through painting portraits of homies next to barbershop walls sprayed with graffiti or party supply store signs on canvas, each work unearths the many stories and perspectives surrounding us. His art celebrates a shared culture in Los Angeles, the culture found on the streets, in a strip mall, or a backyard.
How do you describe yourself and your work?
An artist. All my paintings are more than one medium. I like intentional surface changes whether it's the gloss or the texture. I try to incorporate some spray paint. I'm really trying to reference all these experiences of like painting signs or graffiti or taking photos just noticing how environments organically change through different peoples’ perspective or idea of how the
Where did you grow up?
I was born in East LA but I grew up in La Puente. It’s LA County but it's the outskirts. It's an equestrian area so there's ranches and horses almost like a ranch in Mexico. City of Industry is near La Puente and it’s warehouses and factories and freight trains and then there’s the ranches of La Puente. Being so close to City of Industry I was able to escape. I would spend a lot of time by myself in industrial parts that were only occupied by warehouses and paint graffiti.
When did you realize you were creative?
I've always made art and been interested in art. My father's a sign painter. He's been painting signs for over 30 years. Early on I was kind of introduced to painting. I've also been interested in graffiti since I could remember. It’s one of the first things I really seen it was just part of the landscape especially in the 90s in LA. Graffiti kind of took over everything as a teenager. I was also into like taking photos. When I was bored and didn't have anything to do I would go and just take photos and hang out by myself at night.
When did you realize this could be your career?
It took a lot of me trying things that didn't work. It’s a lot of me self educating on YouTube because I never really did any sort of art school. I would look things up on YouTube like idea of a museum like versus the gallery or how to show in a museum. Then I just heard some dude talking about it and that informed me. It's hard to talk about my work and not mention sign painting because that's also a trade that I got into out of high school. I went to LA trade Tech Community College and took a sign graphics course and started painting signs and making a living doing that. Eventually I realized I wasn't being true with myself and it was really just about money. I still do that work but way less. Ultimately I want to focus on my own artwork. It takes so much to produce work and you know just gather information and subjects and just get the painting to the point where you're willing to show it. It’s only been a few years since I'm able to focus on what I want to do more.
What are some of the misconceptions people have of LA?
I think a lot of people think about a glamorous Hollywood or Beverly Hills or they think Boyz n the Hood or Blood in Blood Out. There's just so much here. When people visit they they weird experience because they all do like whack stuff. I think LA is a place that is better to experience with people that are from here.
What inspires you about LA?
The hustle. It's almost like a performance piece. People are doing performance art every day on the street. All these cultures coming together and kind of making a new culture. The landscape and architecture. The sunset we have. The palm trees. The power lines. Sometimes you get the Downtown skyline and then behind it you see some mountains It’s a little bit of nature and also very like urban. Whether it's someone at a bus stop or painting a side of the building, the things that we see everyday and the situations we're in, there's beauty in it.
What’s a perfect day in LA for you?
It’s a Friday where I'm working in the studio and then there's a cool event at night like a friend’s art show. Or a barbecue with friends and family at someone’s house or a park.
What’s your favorite LA song?
I love gangsta rap. I would say something off of Dr Dre’s The Chronic.
What’s your LA?
I can't really exactly put my finger on it but there's a specific sort of feeling that people from here kind of relate to. It’s a feeling because that’s made up of people and what you get out of visiting a place or location.
What advice would you give a young person growing up in La Puente that’s interested in getting into art?
I think a lot of times people are living in the future saying, “once I get my studio” or “once I finish school” then I'll be able to start. But just take that first step whether it’s starting a drawing or painting. Set yourself up eventually you'll get it going. If you don't take that first step, it could potentially never happen. We can look up anything online. We could message someone we look up to. I think it's important to learn things outside of just art. Learning like discipline and learning how to get up when you fall and and not being afraid to approach someone that you want to talk to is important. People I keep in mind for opportunities are the people who go out of the way to talk to me. The attitude is more important sometimes than the work. There's other people who I think maybe have more skills but they're not as hungry. Don't be afraid to ask questions and even if it makes you look silly. I think it's good to always have the mentality of being a learner and a student.
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