Artist LaMonte French

Photo: Photo credit: Charles Silva Holt/Courtesy of Alise Art Group

COVID-19 did a number on a lot of people. LaMonte French is one of them.

Eighteen months ago, the Houston-born-and-based artist was riding high after his first gallery show at Winston Contemporary Art, titled “Samson’s Song,” where 13 out of the 15 pieces he displayed were bought by collectors. But once coronavirus set off a pandemic, forcing many galleries to close up shop (and, in the case of the now-defunct Winston, permanently), French hit a brick wall.

“When COVID hit, everything in the world shut down — and so did my creativity,” says French, who also came down with the disease around this time last year. “The worst thing for me was, like, the first three or four days at nighttime, sleeping and going through those heavy sweats.”

But French has a knack for resetting his creative mission and starting from scratch. That’s basically how he got in the art game. The son of a high-profile athlete (whose name French won’t disclose), French was poised to follow in his father’s footsteps, playing running back (while also majoring in psychology and sociology) at New Mexico State University. He did find time to do less physically pulverizing activities, like writing and sketching. “That was my escape, whether it would be doodling or making up little war scenes or writing poetry — things like that,” he says.

Around seven or eight years ago, French says he came to a creative and personal crossroads that had him wondering if he could take that artistic leap. “The ideas were in my head, but as far as the discipline, the execution of creating these pieces — I was still running the streets and, you know, living a fast, fast life,” he says. “What I was going through personally, I took what was inside my spirit, inside my soul, and I just started to regurgitate those things on canvas.”

French began learning more about art and studying different artists — Jasper Johns, Kerry James Marshall, Jackson Pollock. “It just evolved, and it got bigger and bigger,” he says.

He eventually began curating his own solo shows at spots like the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) and the Gite Gallery. His work has been getting praise from heavy collectors in the local art scene. Mayor’s Ambassador to the Arts Lester Marks bought several French pieces at that Winston show, and even has a French piece next to a Jean-Michel Basquiat at his place. “He has a Basquiat influence, but he’s quickly creating his own style,” says Marks, who will be hosting a private exhibition for French and his art later this year. “I was just so thrilled with the work, I wanted to show it to others. It’s powerful work, and it needs to be seen.”

When French moved into his Midtown studio last year, that’s when his creative block began to subside. “When I got this space, it was just like I had new energy,” he remembers. “And, then, I told myself, ‘Well, why don’t I just make a collection that depicts everything that I went through this past year?’ So, I literally had, like, this burning inside of my stomach, and the work just started to come out: bright colors, dark colors, mixing, matching. And, then, I thought about things that other people were going through — through that time — that I heard about or thought about or that I had seen. And, then, these large scales of work I just started to produce.”

That burning sensation led him to title his latest exhibition “FUEGO,” which will have a one-night-only showing at the Sanman Studios on Friday night, before collectors and gallery heads can start buying them the next day. “You know, ‘FUEGO’ is really close to my heart because it’s emotional and it’s really personal,” he says. “So, it’s my most vulnerable work, and it talks about everything that’s gone on in the past two years, within our climate of the world.”

French is continuing to get more work out there for the rest of the year, whether it’s through private exhibitions or future showings at the upcoming Ellio Fine Art. “Thirty years from now,” he says, “when people are talking about the best artists in Houston that came out of Houston, I want LaMonte French’s name to be up there. I want it to be talked about — the work that I made, the impact that I made on not just here in Houston, but on the art world.”

He adds, “What I always say is, ‘Hey, I’m just a Creole kid from Houston. My parents just allowed me to dream in color’.”

Alise Art Group presents ‘FUEGO’

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: 1109 Providence Street, Suite 3

Details: Free; eventbrite.com

Craig Lindsey is a Houston-based writer.





(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2021-06-08 05:17:07
Image credit: source

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