The Gonz moves through his environment like a painter. The Gonz moves through his paintings like a skater. Always appearing on the verge of calamity, but then making it all look like it was part of the plan, the Gonz’s style is one of the loosest, most free and exciting styles in skateboarding today, even as the man himself settles into his 40’s.
Often sited as the one who brought street skating to where it is today and changed the whole style of the New York skate scene along the way, Mark Gonzales stands as the ﬁgurehead of a more obscure culture, one which is beginning to ﬁnd prominence and mainstream acceptance. With the release of ﬁlms like Beautiful Losers, skateboarding and art may become more fused in the collective consciousness, but others would argue that they always have been. Watching Gonzales skate, it becomes difﬁcult to tell the difference between the two.
Now, speaking from his NYC apartment after a stint in the warmer climates of New Zealand, Gonz reﬂects on his long career. “All the different changes in skateboarding are what has kept me here. Having to adapt and change and ﬁ t my style around things is the true challenge… I always seem to be doing the opposite of what’s popular. As street skating ledges and stuff becomes more popular, then I’ll be into skating pool. If ramps get more popular, then I like doing the opposite. It’s just my nature.”
These polarities have been what’s deﬁ ned the Gonz throughout his career, keeping him relevant and exciting to each new generation of skaters. If the Gonz exists outside of what is currently popular, he more than likely is leading the curve. In the 24 years since he ﬁrst graced the Thrasher cover, he has sold millions of magazines, launched thousands of tricks, ridden for and started his own companies, and now stands in a space that increasingly deﬁnes him – Mark Gonzales the artist.
According to his wikipedia page, both Donald Trump and Diddy own dedicated collections of Mark’s work – this is anecdotal evidence, but there is no denying his increasing prominence and importance in the art world. Mark’s beginnings and progression in art began the way many things did for him, through skateboarding, and his hyperactivity in and around the clothing and art departments of the teams he rode for. “When I ﬁrst saw them cut the ruby(lith) used to silkscreen I got interested. I wanted to know how to do everything, the art work thing, the whole process. They didn’t allow me to learn it though, the skateboard manufacturers… Whenever I went to the warehouse they’d call someone. ‘Mark’s running around warehouse again getting in people’s way! He’s not letting them do any work!’”
From street gap to gallery wall, now the Gonz is more focused on the art world. His inspiration comes from a variety of new artists – many of his favorites are female. He is interested in the treatment of space and allocation within works. “I like any artists who deal with negative space, its almost a ghostly kind of thing. I feel like now, in my 40’s, I’m always looking for something new in terms of art. I like Martin Kippenberger – he did this one installation with furniture all laid out which was incredible.
I like the idea of openness, the idea of it being bleak and not having too much going on. I have an idea to make a movie like that, like a motion picture that would have an empty feeling. A new kind of modern cinematography”…“I’m currently working on some watercolours on paper which is another new challenge. Maybe a solo show in Australia in 2010. I might do a commercial with Harmony Korine within the next while. Just trying to create.”
The dualities of the Gonz continue to make him something otherworldly. Whether through the the streets of New York, greeting objects with an artists eye, ﬂowing through obstacles as if they weren’t even there on his skateboard, or creating art in the literal sense, Mark Gonzales career still feels as if it is beginning. And in the meantime, there is life. “I love anything active. Soho and the LES in New York. I love cycling. I love going out to Houdini’s grave at the weekends. They say he’s not buried there anymore. The moved him cause they thought someone might dig him up!”. If these are the measures required to protect the sanctity of a legend, Mark may himself need similar treatment one day.
- Text// Michael Hall
- Interview// Adam Bryce