Photo Credit: Rapael Gutierrez
If you’ve walked past the UTSA Arts Building recently, you may have noticed the phrase “Werk Harder” painted across one of its windows.
That window belongs to graduate student Raul Gonzalez’s art studio, where he has spent his time creating some of his recent works.
Inspired by pop culture, traffic signs, fashion and graffiti, Gonzalez has worked in every medium from painting and drawing to creating public art and performance pieces. Recently, he has been producing works of art constructed from cardboard and duct tape depicting the term “werk.”
This past summer, Gonzalez took part in the group exhibition “Things That Make You Go Hmm,” hosted by the UTSA Satellite Space. It featured fellow artists Roberto Celis, Lee Peterson, and Nico Whittaker.
Explaining his concept of “werk,” Gonzalez states, “Work ethic is very important in today’s culture. It’s not just about labor anymore. It’s about being able to navigate in an endless stream of busyness.”
“Any artist can make a whole bunch of artwork, but after they make it, other things need to happen in order to be successful as an artist. Success may be different for certain individuals, but the reality is work has to continue beyond the creation of artwork.”
According to Gonzalez, being successful means embracing a business attitude, from marketing to creating contracts.
“Someone may be happy selling a few paintings here and there on top of working a full-time job. Someone like me may want to have solo shows in museums and end up in an art history book,” says Gonzalez. “I can make hundreds of paintings a year, but if I don’t work my way to the top, then it’s all for nothing. Work ethic is about implementing today’s culture of multitasking into something that will actually benefit you.”
Gonzalez sees his own “werk” history as extensive. At one time, he worked two jobs and attended college full time, while beginning his work in the art field. He knows how to live “paycheck to paycheck,” working 24-hours to make ends meet.
“I honestly stayed away from corporate jobs so I wouldn’t get sucked into some sort of false sense of happiness,” says Gonzales. “I never wanted some executive job with an air conditioned office. I could have definitely made that happen, but I don’t think I would be able to make art that connects to the people the way I do now.”
Gonzales is connected to his work in multiple ways, from creation to materials. He connects to his materials because of what each represents. “When I think of cardboard, I think of recycling, break-dancing in the street and commercialism.”
He also uses an interesting medium — duct tape. “There are so many duct tape colors and patterns available nowadays. It’s not something that artists could have used 100 years ago. In a sense, it’s an inexpensive technological development that has become available to this generation.”
Gonzalez’s work is currently on view in the exhibition “Young Latino Artists 18 Con/Juntos” at Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum through Sept. 8.
A.D. – acrylic, latex, marker, paper, wood, canvas, 2013