Larry E. Johnson
  • Male
  • Inglewood, California
  • United States

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  • Sandra Canning
  • Zola Dube
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  • lynn mccray
  • Stephanie Kaashe
  • Tony Radford
  • D.  Del Reverda-Jennings
  • George Williams

Larry E. Johnson's Page

Profile Information

Artist Statement

My artwork offers glimpses into the lives of African Americans through visual lyricism.  I illustrate the positive and negative aspects of the African American experience. I draw upon the history, the present and future hopes of our society to provoke questions as well as offer answers to the plight of Black people in America.  My style is akin to Hip Hop, the foundation being a classical composition with an improvisational Jazz slash R&B sensitivity depicting raw images of urban life.  As in Hip Hop the producer often borrows from other genres of music to compose a beat or create a mood.  I borrow from the styles of my predecessors, sample from archival imagery, re-purpose references to craft my own visual metaphors.  Also as in Hip Hop I appropriate archival images for reference as well as direct use in some works to add to the overall message of the work.

My initial exposure to fine art was in elementary school where I learned about the lives and works of classic artist such as Monet, Manet, DiVinci and Rembrandt. This sparked my interest in art.  I began to paint landscapes of places I had never been. Later I began to discover the works of Norman Rockwell, Van Gogh, Thomas Kinkaid, and Ernie Barnes.  Ernie Barnes had a huge impact on me because I was seeing images of the life I was living in vivid colors stretched on canvas and celebrated unashamedly. The admiration for life expressed in works by Rockwell I was now equally displaying toward the more relatable reality of Barnes.

I am now developing my own artistic voice. The tools I employ range from reference photographs, a Wacom tablet, and my Macintosh with the same dexterity as I would a live model, a brush and a canvas.  I am learning the techniques of the great masters like DaVinci, Caravaggio, and Renoir while adding the pride and swagger of Barnes and the consciousness of Romare Bearden. I strive to create art considering contextual depth of the past while addressing the contemporary concerns, mixing whatever medium I find appropriate to interpret the message. I combined a minimal object oil painting with photo-collage to create “Take It To His Throne” a perspective on Black spirituality and dealing with everyday concerns.  Likewise I have combined oil and acrylic in “Troubles On My Mind” to illustrate the stresses of being a young Black male. I pay tribute to Delta Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz and Funk in a series of digital photo manipulation compositions.

 I have a love for history as well as art and music.  I often use both as reference as well as inspiration.  I painted “Haunted” with this sensitivity in mind.  An image of the billowing sails of a slave ship looming over the congested tenements of an American urban housing project. I salute jazz in a series of 3 white Conte’ drawings of legends Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. In “What’s Going On”, I reference current events of this generation as a backdrop to my representation of Marvin Gaye.  My figurative drawings and paintings celebrate the beauty of ancestry of the Black culture in “Spirits”, which captures the personifications of the diversity of African civilizations that strengthens todays Black male.

Whereas my previous work critiqued both societies attitude towards African Americans and African Americans attitude towards us, my current paintings focus on celebrating the beauty Blackness and the triumph of the spirit.  I am creating more images the feature the human form to emphasize movement and facial expressions the illuminate joy and passion.  I reference the physical strength and gracefulness of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company to express my interpretations of mundane life through dramatic movement.  I am also interested in projecting a sense of motion using medium and brush stroke.  I manage this by varying brush sizes on smaller canvases and length of stroke on larger canvases where the movement is created by me actually moving across the canvas at different angles and reach.  In the case of  “Riser” 88 x 60in, which expresses the desire to escape the darkness of the ghetto.  I painted while listening to music and the brush strokes are a result of my physical engagement with music while painting.  I called upon the history of Black social watering holes in the south to paint “Juke Joint” a perspective on Southern nightlife in the thirties and forties.  Likewise I have combined travel images of Rota, Spain and reference model of a Flamenco dancer to recall my experience of that life during my military service years abroad.  I have a love for dance as well as art and music.  I incorporated as reference as well as inspiration.  I painted “Freedom” with these sensitivities in mind, the image of a young African American woman in an expression of joy unveiling her true self from behind a white mask, was inspired by the Alvin Ailey dancer as well as the song by Mali Music, “Beautiful”.   I reference current events of this generation as a backdrop to my representation of Maxwell in “The Soul Singer”.  This piece discusses the power of attractiveness of being a soul music balladeer. 

I have found that art can encompass music, history, beauty, tragedy, love and oppression. Through the choice of medium and the context of message I have been able to compose visual lyricism on paper or canvas, though pixels and paint.  I am able to tell my story, the story of Black America in my own unique way by incorporating the techniques developed in the Renaissance, adopted and molded in Harlem, and remixed with the computer.

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