Alfonso Gonzalez Jr.’s Artistic Insight

Interview by Kristin Farr // Portrait by Eduardo Medrano Jr

Look at your environment through the eyes of Alfonso Gonzalez Jr., a breakthrough observationalist, and you’ll realize that art is everywhere. Alfonso, an artist who studies the evolution of visual communication, sees land and cityscapes with an archeological lens. Starting with a camera and now using paint, he captures the ever-changing patina of LA streets, unearthing the heart from the fades and ephemerality of existence. His work serves as a record of fragmented moments, each telling a story and pushing forward the rightful narratives of our time.

Attracted to Weathered Surfaces

Kristin Farr: What attracts you to weathered surfaces?
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: When I encounter a weathered surface in LA, I can’t help but think about the people and the community. It’s the people who influence and transform these surfaces. I’m always fascinated by their aesthetic decisions and their relationship with public space. Why did someone choose a certain name for their business or paint a building a specific color? Why did a truck driver paint a Looney Tunes character, or a teenager draw a penis on the face of a real estate agent on a bus bench? These stories and choices shape the way a city looks.

Preserving Time through Art

Kristin Farr: Is your work a method of preserving time?
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: Absolutely. I see my work as a form of documentation, much like archiving and archaeology. Our cities are evolving at an incredibly rapid pace, and soon they will no longer look the way they do now. I want to preserve the beauty of our communities and remind people to appreciate what previous generations have left behind—the traces, imperfections, and culture.

Influence of Contemporary Life

Kristin Farr: How does contemporary life influence your practice?
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: Growing up in an era dominated by screens, my mind often approaches new works with a consideration of how they would appear on a digital screen. I imagine compositions as if they were framed within a zoomed-in screen. Although I have this digital influence, I still stick to traditional methods of production. I learned my craft through sign painting, and I continue to approach my work in that same old-school way.

The Sign Painting Legacy

Kristin Farr: Tell me about your dad, the sign painter.
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: My dad, Alfonso Gonzalez Sr., also known as AL SIGNS, has been painting signs for over 40 years. He moved to Los Angeles from Tijuana in the early 1970s and turned his art practice into a commercial career. Growing up, I was surrounded by books and magazines about Mexican muralism, airbrush painting, lowrider culture, and car culture. One of my earliest memories was looking at a book on David Alfaro Siqueiros. Even today, I see my dad’s sign work on Southern California highways.

Inspired by Neighborhoods

Kristin Farr: Since you mentioned it as inspiration, let’s talk about your neighborhood.
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: Currently, I live and work in East Los Angeles. Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S and came to East LA, so I have strong family ties to this neighborhood. It’s an incredibly rich and vibrant place, with 96% Latino residents—the highest percentage in Los Angeles County. East LA has a history filled with inspiring artistic movements like Asco, Los Four, and the East Los Streetscapers.

Personal References in Art

Kristin Farr: Can you share an example of a personal reference in one of your paintings?
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: In my painting titled “Avocado Heights” from 2019, I depicted the house I grew up in. Although the current version of the house looks different, I vividly remember how it appeared when I was younger. This painting was also the first time I included a cholo on a horse, a motif that reappeared in my later work titled “Sueños” (2021). “Sueños” captures the memories, dreams, and daily life I experienced growing up in the equestrian and semi-rural barrio of Avocado Heights. It pays homage to the distinctive lifestyle that emerged from the convergence of Mexican paisa culture and LA gang culture, challenging historical representations of power.

Art for Everyone

Kristin Farr: Who do you prioritize as the audience for your artwork?
Alfonso Gonzalez Jr: I don’t prioritize a specific audience for my work. I believe that almost everyone can find something to appreciate and interpret in my art. Being an artist allows me to engage with a wide range of people, and those interactions directly inform the ideas and subjects in my work. Whether it’s a street vendor or a professor, I value all perspectives. Some are drawn to