Nowhere Everywhere II/III
December 17, 2015 - March 11, 2016
Raúl Gonzalez III—Nowhere Everywhere
The land is so well distributed that no city has less than twelve miles of ground on all sides…None of them is driven by any desire to extend its boundaries.1
Thomas More, Utopia, 1516
Utopia now better expresses our relationship to a genuinely political future than any current programme of action. It forces us precisely to concentrate on the break itself: a meditation on the impossible, on the unrealizable in its own right.2
Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, 2005
[T]he utopian impulse is implicit in all art making, at least in so far as one thinks that art addresses itself to the basic project of making the world better.3
Richard Noble, The Utopian Impulse in Contemporary Art, 2009
…there was nowhere to go but everywhere...
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll, 1951
Raúl Gonzalez III—Nowhere Everywhere is the second show in our yearlong examination of utopias and dystopias—a theme suggested by the Cambridge School of Weston’s English Department and voted into the 2015-16 Thompson Gallery itinerary by our students. The central focus of this yearlong meditation on Thomas More’s 500-year-old book is the idea of human perfectibility. The first exhibition in this series, China Marks—Nowhere Everywhere, often poked at human imperfectability, with irreverent, audacious imagery calling to mind whimsical places in one’s own imagination. Raúl Gonzalez III—Nowhere Everywhere takes a more sobering view, its imagery focusing largely on the border between Mexico and the United States.
Raúl Gonzalez III was born in El Paso, Texas, where he grew up and lived for 20 years. His grandparents and mother were from Mexico City and had their family business in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Throughout his childhood, Gonzalez traveled daily to his family’s Mercado Cuauhtémoc puesto (booth) in Juárez. At an early age, Gonzalez passed the time by drawing, inspired by comic book art and his Mexican sojourns. Immersion in a rich and vibrant Mexico inspired the young artist, who often drew imaginary cityscapes of places he wanted to go or be in. In an interview with Sara Zielinski, Gonzalez recounted his childhood art experiences:
I was a terrible student, flunking every single class, even typing. The only thing I felt I was good at was drawing.4
I spent a lot of my time copying images from comic books. I would use the only art materials I knew about at the time, which were ballpoint pens.5
It wasn’t until I moved here to the Northeast and walked through museums here that I really started to want to tell or draw stories that were from my place of origin. When I lived in El Paso for 20-some years, it never crossed my mind. Instead I was drawing imaginative cityscapes and comics about the big city even though I had never lived there. I was trying to draw where I wanted to be as opposed to where I was. Then when I made it to the big city, I started to focus my attention on my place of origin. I feel it was mainly because I noticed that there wasn’t anyone—maybe there was, but I didn’t see it—there wasn’t anyone being a voice for this community and I wanted to tell our story.6
Today, Gonzalez’s art successfully straddles two distinct areas of art—the commercial and fine art realms. It is unusual for an artist to speak across two distinct age brackets in order to tell “his story”—he illustrates children’s books while also engaging in a contemporary fine art practice. Gonzalez emerged upon Boston fine art gallery scene between 2007-09 with his Pelt series and his Look’um Here (It Might Could’a Been) exhibition at Boston’s Carroll and Sons gallery—who loaned most of the work on view in Nowhere Everywhere. Gonzalez’s Pelt series appropriates Disneyesque caricatures of two nearly extinct beings—the American Bison and the American Indian—and it sets the stage, at the end of the exhibition, to reflect not only on the Mexican-American struggle but also the American Indian dilemma. The Pelt series comprises 20 exquisite drawings that de-romanticize the American West and a single large drawing that literally looks viewers in the eye as they see, or don’t see, America’s imperialist past. Gonzalez recently published a children’s book with writer Cathy Camper, entitled Lowriders in Space—the original uncolored drawings and a copy of the publication are both on view. Gonzalez completed the drawings for Lowriders in Space II the week this exhibition opened, and that publication is forthcoming. Raúl Gonzalez III—Nowhere Everywhere presents his two creative arenas to emphasize his unique disposition as an artist able to speak about contemporary issues to people of all ages.
Raúl Gonzalez III—Nowhere Everywhere primarily comprises selected groupings from the artist’s Bienvenidos, Conejo, Tranquilandia, and Los Nuevos Guerreros series works; he has provided statements for each body of work, located in the exhibition checklists below. The drawings from these series constitute a dark cultural portrait, while his political cartoons also illuminate the artist’s Mexican-American identity and his critical points of view. Though many of the drawings that Gonzalez completed over the last decade are not appropriate for our particular audience, the work on display in Nowhere Everywhere still crosses into uncomfortable territory for many of our viewers. Viewers are encouraged to consider the drawings on view much in the same way Shakespeare’s plays teach us through harsh example; they show us a world filled with brutality that points out the mistakes we shouldn’t make again.
Gonzalez’s iconography is striking and sardonic. He shows us that the world he describes is close at hand. He tells this story to give voice to the people and situations that he reads about in the unfolding daily news. Though his imagery is complicated and often disturbing, its power comes from his truthful observations and intensely hopeful outlook:
The characters, the animals are always walking towards something and that is usually very goal-oriented. The people are looking for work, for things they can do to survive, they are looking to redefine themselves, they are looking to provide for families they have left behind. Sometimes the ways that they are going to achieve these goals are very unclear to them. It’s almost like that shimmering city in the horizon that you’re walking towards and as soon as you get there it disappears, it wasn’t really there. A lot of the people in my work are going through extreme hardships, whether it’s the backbreaking labor of my relatives picking fruit, or very dangerous work such as working for the cartels, or women having to cross incredibly hot terrains with their families in tow.7
The Western desire to create an ideal society has roots in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy; those ideas of course can be traced to the United States of America and are still held up as utopian, even if we live in decidedly dystopian times. As our Mexican neighbors seek a better life through both legal and illegal immigration, Gonzalez’s art points out the bitter truth that many people today live in a perpetual state of purgatory: nowhere they want to be, and everywhere they go surrounded by hardship. Though Gonzalez’s iconography examines the dystopic realties of today’s Latin-American poverty, drug-related violence, and complex immigration issues, his work also exemplifies the “utopian impulse.” Gonzalez models for his viewers the power of an artistic voice that speaks for those who can’t, and who struggle to make a better world for themselves.
Gallery Director, Curator
1. Thomas More, Utopia, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014, p. 54
2. Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, Verso, London and New York, 2005, pp. 232-3
3. Richard Noble, Utopias, found in Introduction//The Utopian Impulse in Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Press, London, and MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2009, p. 12
4. Sara Zielinski, Interview With Raul Gonzalez III, Part II, 09/08/2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-zielinski/interview-with-raul-gonza_b_8094074.html, retrieved December 5, 2015
5. Zielinski, Interview With Raul Gonzalez III, Part II
6. Zielinski, Interview With Raul Gonzalez III, Part I, 08/27/2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-zielinski/sara-zielinski-interviews_3_b_8049056.html, retrieved December 5, 2015
7. Zielinski, Interview With Raul Gonzalez III, Part II