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 primarily 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 by 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, or even paint chips and glass – Gonzalez turned everyday objects into magnificent tools of creation and expression. Gonzalez is committed to becoming a voice for the voiceless – he earned a BA from Villanova University and worked as president of LACEO, where he has given away 52 scholarships funded by inmates from their own wages. Gonzalez continued this community-based work after his release. Gonzalez’s art mirrors his advocacy work: critical of injustice, but exploding with compassion for those forced to carry its burden.
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 was the co-host of “From The Ivory Tower To The Street: A Justice Conversation” on USALA Radio and has also taught a course at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Suave has been awarded a 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting for his podcast, "Suave" - a riveting project that the Pulitzer judges called “a brutally honest and immersive profile of a man reentering society after serving more than 30 years in prison". Sharing the true story of a teen sentenced to life without parole at a maximum-security prison and what happens when he gets a second shot at freedom many decades later. Suave Gonzalez was born to create, and his drive to do so is boundless.