I use art as a tool to break down the fear and chaos of my environment with the hope of creating a kinder world.
––Suave Gonzalez, Painter
Through his colorfully confrontational works, Philadelphia artist and activist Suave Gonzalez proves the political power of art. Gonzalez is a self-taught street muralist and artist, working mostly with acrylic and mixed-media. He inventively reimagines iconic imagery, creating both entertaining pop style portraiture and highly political works that visually speak to issues of human struggle and justice. After serving 31 years in prison, Gonzalez is extremely proud of his participation in Morton Contemporary as he embarks upon his first official exhibition in a private art gallery.
Gonzalez grew up in the South Bronx. He enjoys recalling New York City graffiti as igniting his love for art. As a kid, he felt drawn to street artists NICER and Jean Michel Basquiat who made their public mark tagging up trains in his neighborhood. While serving his prison sentence, art became a coping mechanism for Gonzalez, allowing him to escape the harsh realities of incarceration. Whether it was a brush, crayon, pencil, even paint chips or glass––Gonzalez turned everyday objects into magnificent tools of creation and expression.
While serving his prison term, Gonzalez committed to becoming a voice for the voiceless - he earned a BA from Villanova University and worked as president of LACEO, a Latino organization that has given away 52 scholarships funded by inmates from their own wages. Gonzalez continued this community-based work after his release. He is currently the Director of Nu-Stop Resource center, an organization which offers assistance to individuals transitioning from prison life to life outside. Gonzalez’s art mirrors his advocacy work: critical of injustice, but exploding with compassion for those forced to carry its burden. Gonzalez is currently making paintings of essential workers who are risking their lives to help others during the Covid pandemic.
As a street artist, his goal is to confront the public with social issues, ignite dialogue, and inspire change. Gonzalez was a 2014 TED talk presenter, a 2018 Philadelphia TEDx presenter, and a 2018 Reimagining Reentry Fellow through Mural Arts Philadelphia. He is the co-host of “From The Ivory Tower To The Street: A Justice Conversation” on USALA Radio, and teaches a course at the University of Pennsylvania. Suave Gonzalez was born to create, and his drive to do so is boundless.