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April 15, 2024
4 minute read

Raúl Gonzo: Color Madness

Raúl Gonzo (American, born 1979), Synchronized Swimmer Drama, 2015. Digital print on archival paper, 16 x 22 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist, 2021.23.1. 

Sacramento, Ca., April 15, 2024Raúl Gonzo: Color Madness showcases the bold, campy, and colorful photographs of Sacramento-based photographer Raúl Gonzo. Each highly saturated image contains satirical and humorous nods to childhood, consumerism, Pop art, television game shows, Alfred Hitchcock films, and standards of beauty. This show presents a selection of photographs taken from 2015 through today as well as a new immersive installation that invites the public into Gonzo’s technicolor dream world. On view at the Crocker Art Museum from June 30 through October 20, 2024, Color Madness is Gonzo’s first museum exhibition. 

Before taking his photographs, Gonzo makes detailed sketches to determine the color relationships, costumes, and settings of the compositions. He then meticulously stages each scene, casting models and performers to play the characters within his handmade sets. The results depict relatable, yet unrealistic images of everyday life. They typically focus on a suspenseful moment immediately before or after a dramatic misadventure.  

“Gonzo has a unique ability to transport viewers to an alternate realm,” says Crocker Curator Francesca Wilmott. “Though his images are based in reality, their unexpected details, materials, and color combinations are delightfully off-kilter. Gonzo's staged photographs reveal the artifice of suburbia and conventional notions of beauty.” 

In Big Gulp Through the Window (2015), an open window frames a woman frozen in mid-run. Gonzo modeled her pose after Cary Grant’s iconic running scene in Hitchcock’s 1959 film North by Northwest. Though the photo’s protagonist has escaped the towering green house behind her—which Gonzo adapted from Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988)—she is clearly not safe from peril. On the other side of the window, an ominous red room awaits her. The empty picture frames and television set with static on the screen contribute to the photograph’s foreboding mood.

Throughout his work, Gonzo uses a retrofuturist aesthetic. He recalls that as a child in the 1980s, his school textbooks and the commercial advertisements he watched projected a pseudo 1950s version of the future that never came to fruition. Gonzo’s photographs presents a compelling dichotomy, asking the viewer to embrace surface-level color and composition while questioning how American culture can be critiqued and reimagined through the smallest of details.

Color Madness started as an experiment,” explains Gonzo. “I had only intended on shooting three concepts and then moving on. After shooting those three, I fell in love and decided to continue shooting these quirky images until I ran out of ideas or got tired of the aesthetic. Ten years later, I’ve shot over a hundred concepts and still have many more yet to be made. My work embodies humor, like a joke, it’s a moment of relief. I love photography because it speaks without a language.” 

A catalogue, Raul Gonzo: Color Madness, is available for purchase in the Crocker Museum Store. The exhibition is curated by Francesca Wilmott, PhD.  

ABOUT THE ARTIST  
A multi-disciplinary talent, Gonzo’s experience as a film and music video director has shaped his approach to visual storytelling. His colorful, quirky, and memorable photographs translate into the music videos he has directed for prominent bands, including The Goo Goo Dolls, Kat Von D, Jacob Collier, Kimbra, and I Don't Know How But They Found Me. In 2018, Gonzo directed the short children’s film Margo Hoo Couldn’t Sleep!, about a young girl who stirs up mischief during her sleepless nights. The film was accepted into over two dozen film festivals worldwide and won the Best Narrative Short at the 2018 Sacramento Film and Music Festival. Gonzo also participated in Art Hotel 916, a 2016 exhibition hosted in a building that was slated for demolition. In addition to his work as a director and photographer, Gonzo does stand-up comedy and has written and illustrated children’s books.   

 

EXHIBITION RELATED EVENTS AND PROGRAMS 

  • Tour: Raúl Gonzo: Color Madness – Wednesday, July 10 

  • Material Explosion: Paint Wildly Inspired by Raúl Gonzo: Color Madness – Saturday, August 10 

  • Art Play: Colorful Canvases – Saturday, August 17 

  • Drink and Draw: Indoor Environments Inspired by Raúl Gonzo: Color Madness – Saturday, August 25 

  • ArtTastes: Color Madness – Thursday, August 29