The 'Black Paintings,' a series Walton began in 2017, address issues of identity including visibility and invisibility, presence and absence, figure, and void. On canvases painted black, layers of neon-hued acrylic and oil stick depict scenes ranging from the mundane to the controversial.
J O H N I S I A H W A L T O N | | | biography
[lives & works - New Orleans, LA]
JOHN ISIAH WALTON is a New Orleans artist whose neo-expressionist works are internationally recognized for their commentary on race, class, identity, and current events through his irreverent, frenetic and sometimes absurdist style. His art has been on show at the Art Lab Akiba (Tokyo, Japan); the Atlanta Contemporary Biennial (Atlanta, Georgia); the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans, Louisiana); the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art (Biloxi, Mississippi); P339 (Brooklyn, New York); and more. His residencies include the Macedonia Institute (Chatham, New York) and the Joan Mitchell Center (New Orleans). In 2022, he will showcase work in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Influenced by internet aesthetics, Black identity, pop culture, and Louisiana history, Walton’s subjects are often unconventional and sometimes shocking. In the tradition of Basquiat, his work frequently has hidden meanings and symbols, and his choppy brushwork endows the work with the energy and intensity that the artist is known for. Rooted in concern about the social, economic, political, and cultural structures at play in contemporary life, Walton’s best-known series sometimes encourage discomfort.
His breakthrough exhibit was 2015’s “Beaucoup Humidity,” curated by the legendary Diego Cortez. A behind-the-scenes exploration of service industry workers of his hometown, the series exemplifies Walton’s signature wit and personal experience to depict the New Orleans underbelly hidden from tourists. The series was preceded by 2012’s “Zulu Portraits,” which featured post-colonial portraiture of Black and white political leaders in blackface to remind us to deconstruct or disentangle an errant white American history. The title is a reference to the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club parade krewe of New Orleans.
In 2016, Walton tackled the carceral state in a series featuring inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as Angola, portrayed through portraits of bulls and bullfighters. The series aims to examine our complacency with incarceration, and represents a more subdued but no less subversive approach to critical social commentary. The “Black Paintings,” a series Walton began in 2017, address issues of identity including visibility and invisibility, presence and absence, figure, and void. On canvases painted black, layers of neon-hued acrylic and oil stick depict scenes ranging from the mundane to the controversial.
Walton was the first African-American member of the artist collective The Front and a founding member of both The Level Artist Collective and the Second Story Gallery. He has lectured about his work to the graduate program at UNC, Chapel Hill. He attended St. Augustine High School. (1999-2002) and graduated from Sarah T. Reed High School (2003). Walton received an AA degree in 2012 from Delgado College, New Orleans.
2012 Associates of Fine Arts, Delgado, New Orleans, LA
2019 Macedonia Institute, Chatham, NY
2018 Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans , La
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2022 Off-White: Black Paintings, Baton Rouge Gallery, New Orleans
2022 Code Black, JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY, New Orleans
2019 Humidity, Ohr O’keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, Ms
2018 In My Lifetime Vol. 1, The Front, New Orleans, La
2016 Rodeo, The Front, New Orleans, La
God Willing, P339, Brooklyn, NY 2015 Beacoup Humidity, P339, Brooklyn, NY
Off The Porch With It, The Front, New Orleans, La
2014 Political Portraits, Identity Books, Graham, NC
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2022 Group Show, Bar David Museum, Tel Aviv, Isreal
2019 Atlanta Biennial, Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, Ga 2018
Bull Meets the Bayou, The Carrack, Durham, NC
And Now for Something New Vol. 1, LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, La
Phosphorescence and Fluorescence , Studio Waveland, Waveland, Ms
2017 Level Artist Collective, Carroll Gallery Tulane University, New Orleans, La
Rayguns, Robots, Drones, Sun Valley Center For The Arts, Sun Valley, Id
Megalomania 5, Boyd Satellite, New Orleans, La
2016 The Front at Feral, Gallery Feral, Mexico City, Mexico
60 Americans, Makeshift Museum, Los Angeles, Ca
American Beauty, Acaidana Center For The Arts, Lafayette, La
Moleskin Show, Tempus Project, Tampa, Fl 2015
Straight Shot, Mass Gallery, Austin, Tx
Level Artist Collective, Antenna, New Orleans, La
2014 Reparations: Contemporary Artists From New Orleans, NOMA, New Orleans, La
The Front at Ginza Art Lab, Tokyo Art Lab, Tokyo, Japan
Art Voices 5th Annual Open Call, Untitled Projects, Los Angeles, Ca.
Face Of The Enemy, Second Story Gallery, New Orleans, La
2012 Inaugural Group Show, Second Story Gallery, New Orleans, La
Artist Who Wish They Were Dead, UNO St. Claude / Baristers Gallery, New Orleans, La
The Good Stuff 2, Homespace Gallery, New Orleans, La