Ronald Gonzalez (b.1952, U.S.)
Study for Black Figures
Manipulated found objects, wax, wire, metal filings, glue, and soot over welded steel, 31.75 cm. h.
Gift of the artist
Ronald Mario Gonzalez was born in Johnson City, N.Y. in 1952, the third of five children to Phillip Gonzalez and Lilia Finelli. His father was of Spanish and Jewish descent and worked at E J. shoe factory in Johnson City NY. and sold used cars. His mother was Italian, a devout catholic, who preached and did healings. In his childhood Gonzalez underwent several stomach surgeries to correct a birth defect from his mother having German measles during pregnancy. He filled these recuperative years in front of a small black and white television, and played with gumball machine trinkets and dollhouse miniatures that he collected. “Growing up in fifties consumer culture of talking appliances and mass-produced excess led to my defective television mentality” and a lifelong preoccupation with caricatured personalities. This preoccupation with the new transforming medium of TV also created a kinship with Hollywood sci – fi films, monsters, robots, alien creatures, and corpses, along with the post-cold war threat of nuclear apocalypse. Gonzalez’s subjective encounter with the co- existence, of beauty and repulsion, humor and sadness as well as the undercurrents of social turmoil, absurdity and distortion in those formative years set the stage for his overwhelming desire to represent, in figural form, the substratum of the human soul. In 1973, after returning to finish high school, Gonzalez saw a Time Life book on Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.” Also, showing photographs of boxes of collected fragments. He recalls being obsessed by the idea of creating imaginary worlds of figures inseparable from the life and death drama of existence, “The boxes themselves were a collection of ideas having to do with time, memory, disintegration, the serialization of form, and the power of collections. “That day he bought a bag of clay and began to work in his bedroom making his own collection of small figures and fragments. He soon assessed so many figures that he bought and pitched a used tent in a friend’s back yard to store his work. In 1976, he enrolled in the Fine Arts Department at Harpur College, Binghamton, New York, to study sculpture and to use the studios to work on his figures. During this time, he learned to weld, allowing his figures to take on a greater scale and to incorporates a more varied assortment of objects. After graduating in 1983, he travelled to Italy, France, and Greece, to see “the history of scarred bodies and souls in art.” During his trip Gonzalez visited the studios of Giacomo Manzu in Rome, and Manuel Neri, in Carrara Italy. In 1999, Gonzalez joined the Art Department at Binghamton University where he continues to teach as a professor of Art and Sculpture. His recent work consists of life size figures and fragments, always painted black; the pieces are often exhibited individually or in groups staged on long runway platforms. These works are dominated by the use of corroded found objects and steel armatures that evoke a wasted, desolate realm where blackened heads and bodies are marked by trauma and loss.
“I prefer things with all the marks of desolation and ruin to create empathies. For me, sculpture begins with the human body as the supreme object of mystery and imagination. My affinity is for the tradition of transformation; to seek and find is not enough. The lessons of nature always bring me back to the transitoriness of things. In art, the collector amasses materials in the face of death in order to preserve expression. My work is rooted in the unity of metaphoric anatomies and measured by the beauty of presence. I search for the blended energies of forms reinvented, reconfigured and reassembled in space as part and whole. These In-animates have been ravaged by possession. As entities, they conceal lived experience as commonplace and transitory. Like us, things are tempered and shaped by their environment from hands that have conducted memories, histories, analogies and resemblances into them. These figures stand as imaginary beings of real life existence, a repertoire of decaying personas reborn as things that I can see.” Ronald Gonzalez, 2015