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Top Houston graffiti artists team up for major exhibition at Saint Arnold Brewery


When you get a couple of graffiti artists together for a talk about an upcoming event they’ll be part of, expect them to go down memory lane about their years ducking and dodging the police in order to make the city their canvas. 

“In the ‘90s, you couldn’t walk around with a spray can in your hand because the cops would harass you and they automatically lumped in, you know, a spray can equals gang member equals violence,” says the artist known as GONZO247 (born Mario Figueroa Jr.), who has been tagging and writing since the early ‘80s.

“Now, you got the mayor’s office and the city reaching out to us,” says Article (name: Phillip Perez), who’s been in it since ‘92. “We were the same cats they were hemming up!”

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Even though graffiti is still considered a crime (at worst, anyone caught doing it could face fines of $10,000 and/or confinement for five to 99 years), that isn’t stopping these guys from doing “12oz. OGs,” a live graffiti exhibition and market that will be happening this April 29 at Saint Arnold Brewing Co. GONZO, Article, skeez181 (David Flores) and Colorsoner (Erik Del Rio) are the local veteran artists who’ll be tagging, writing and coming up with hip art in front of your very eyes.  

When: 11 a.m. April 29

Where: Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 2000 Lyons Ave.

Details: Free; 713-686-9494;

“These four guys coming together – I don’t think people really realize the importance of it, the weight of it,” says “first generation b-boy” Craig “BBC” Long, who’ll be handling MC and DJ duties.

Adds Article, “It’s going to be like that perfect burrito with all the ingredients, you know, and you take a bite out of that [expletive] and that [expletive] is good, son!” 

It was Colors and Skeez – both with 30 years in the game – who came up with the idea of doing a show that celebrates Houston graffiti history. GONZO then approached his pals at Saint Arnold about the show. The artist has collaborated with the brewery many times – even designing the can for Saint Arnold’s Art Car IPA.

“We’ve worked with GONZO in every way imaginable over the years,” says Saint Arnold chief marketing officer Lennie Ambrose. “We try to support the arts in various ways, whatever those arts are. When GONZO came to me with this idea a couple of months ago now, it just seemed like the perfect combination of things for us.” 

Along with giving people a free, live art show, the artists are looking to make this a master class for all the young, up-and-coming whippersnappers that are calling themselves street artists.

“We have this entire new generation of artists doing street art, as they call it nowadays,” says GONZO. “And I believe there’s a lot of history that’s been lost of how we got where we’re at today. And a lot of younger people only know of street art as its own genre, not knowing that the roots of street art are from graffiti.

“What is considered street art is more polished or college-educated – people that have regular studios, but decide to go outside with it and call themselves street artists,” he continues. “It’s really opened the door to a lot of other mediums and formats whereas, previously, you had what was traditional graffiti and it was other people pushing the boundaries of what could be done with spray paint or other mediums.”

Article is just happy he’ll be working with his mentors and peers. Schooling these knuckleheads is a bonus. “As an individual coming up in the city,” he says, “being able to paint with the other guys that were painting before me means a lot. Because that’s what we started out to do initially, as street artists and graffiti writers. We just went out to write on stuff, you know, and represent our city. And it gives us a chance to do that as a whole this time, under one roof.”

As for elder statesman GONZO, who has been called on to design everything from murals to cowboy hats to furniture, he’s amazed graffiti has taken him this far. “I had ideas of what I wanted to do, but I think where I’m at today has surpassed what I could’ve thought possible back in those days,” says GONZO. “Graffiti has taken me around the world. It’s taken me to Asia. It’s taken me to Africa. It’s taken me to Europe. And I’m thankful that I was able to stay with it and stay true to what I was doing in order to see where I ended up.”

Craig Lindsey is a Houston-based writer.

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