Wayne Gonzales was born in 1957 in New Orleans. In 1985, he received a BA from the University of New Orleans. After a year of graduate school in fine art, he moved to New York in the late 1980s. He worked as a studio assistant for Peter Halley, and through him formed ties with writers, curators, and art dealers. His first solo exhibition, at Lauren Wittels Gallery, New York, in 1997, comprised several stylistically disparate paintings in varying degrees of abstraction and representation. As an artist, he began finding inspiration in photographs and other documents of major events from the latter half of the 20th century. Through his work, Gonzales started addressing the complex relationships among photography, history, and memory.
Gonzales had grown up in New Orleans on the same street as Lee Harvey Oswald and in a family with loose ties to the John F. Kennedy assassination investigation, a personal connection that inspired a later body of work shown at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, in 2001. Based on a growing collection of source material about the murder, he produced a series of photo-derived acrylics, each based on a piece of documented "evidence" related to one of the investigations. A frame of Abraham Zapruder's famous footage that captures the instant Kennedy is shot in the head is abstracted into an irregular grid of colored squares in Zapruder Frame (2001); in Peach Oswald (2001), a photograph of the assassin is transformed through a Warholian painting style, and scaled so that his eyes are level with those of the viewer. Later series explored the politics of real estate, as in Green White House (2003), and the possible forms of consciousness latent in the public sphere, as in Waiting Crowd (2008). Source photographs from the latter, culled largely from Internet images of crowds at the beach, air shows, and sporting events, conjure a range of associations, including spectacle culture, Iraq War protests, and alienation. In all of his series, Gonzales bends painting to the task of highlighting the malleability of photography, undermining its connotations of truthful documentation and demonstrating the unavoidable contingency of history, through using different aspects of photography's visual language, such as pixels, rasters, and glare.
Gonzales’s work has been shown in various venues worldwide including P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art (now MoMA PS1), New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Fonds régional d'art contemporain, Dle, France; and Consortium, Dijon, France. He lives and works in New York.