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Artopia Preview: Going GONZO With Obama

The Houston Press Artopia party is Saturday, and Hair Balls is previewing a different participating artist each day this week. Artopia will feature 27 artists, as well as live art and music performances, fashion shows, and a presentation of the Press's MasterMind awards. For more details and ticket information, click here.

Back before President Obama was president, his Houston campaign headquarters needed some work, something like plastering his image on the side of a brick wall. GONZO247, the same guy who painted that green and yellow and red house near the Alabama and Almeda intersection, was called in for the job.

GONZO247, a native Houstonian, already had a little connection to Obama, because the kid that inspired GONZO to paint hailed from Obama's hometown.

"There was a student that transferred into my school, and he was from Chicago," GONZO247 tells Hair Balls. "He was already doing graffiti in Chicago and he was getting in trouble. So they shipped him down to Houston."

The Chicago student ended up in most of GONZO's classes, and he spent most of his time drawing. When GONZO saw that, it was the first time he was excited about any kind of art.

So he took to the streets and started spray painting walls, as the kid from Chicago "schooled me on how things are done, the protocol and the hierarchy of a tag, a bum, a burner, a piece, and just kind of gave me the ends and outs of graffiti."

About a decade later, GONZO247 started getting recognized as a graffiti artist after he, along with another artist, started making video tapes of guys spray painting in Houston and other cities. Since the internet didn't really exist at the time, the tapes, titled "Aerosol Warfare," were marketed and sold through a pen-pal system and eventually word of mouth.

Aerosol Warfare is the name of GONZO247's street/urban art gallery these days, and he also spends his time working on pieces for companies like Red Bull, Scion and Converse. He's also working with a group called CKC Start to organize a Graffiti Gala, scheduled for later this fall.

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CKC Start also helped GONZO247 start teaching art classes. It's something he didn't want to do at first, he says, but during the last year, it's been one of his most rewarding experiences. He's even teaching at some local colleges.

"I couldn't believe I was teaching a graffiti class at Rice University," he says. 

For Artopia, GONZO247 says he's showing a new body of work, born from experimenting with new styles.

"It's very loose, very free, and all spray paint- and graffiti-orientated," GONZO247 says. "It's almost like a detailed section of a wall that's been bombed, a place that's been hit up a million times, and you cut a section out of it. But it's thought-out versus random."

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