Black Paintings exhibit meets the SLU Gallery


Courtesy of John Isiah Walton

John Isiah Walton at the SLU Contemporary Art Gallery giving a tour of the exhibit as well as explaining the details of some of his pieces. Walton’s work will be in the SLU gallery until September 2.

John Isiah Walton’s latest exhibit, “Black Paintings: Cybernetic Folklore, Place + Spirit”,  opened in Southeastern’s Contemporary Art Gallery on June 14 and will be on view until Sept. 2. 

Walton’s inspiration for all of his pieces was the continual pursuit of being creative. His exhibit consists of paintings from a span of over four years and contains topics of the internet and ideas pertaining to the world of the 21st century. 

Many of his paintings allowed him to incorporate his cultural identity and bits of his personality into each piece. 

“I’m giving the viewers a perspective from my thoughts. The thoughts of an African American male that has experienced racism, witnessed the rise of the internet and who is an avid part-time gamer. With these experiences, I try to come up with the best images to create strong works with one of my many styles of mark making,” Walton said. 

One example of this is the Pokémon that are placed in some of Walton’s paintings. Viewers can spot icons such as Beedrill, Sandile and Weedle. Walton’s personal favorite Pokémon is Evee due to how many evolution types it can have, reminding him of how he likes to use different mediums to approach his ideas. 

When going into depth about the title of his exhibition, Walton describes the phrase “Cybernetic Folklore” as a way to refer to the collision of the digital age and traditional culture. 

There are many references to the internet clashing with tradition in several of Walton’s pieces. 

“Computer virus and binary 1’s and 2’s are referenced in ‘McAfee’ and ‘Trojan Horse.’ ‘Machiavellian Browser’ tells the story of police violence through pop-up windows and interface buttons like ‘save’ and ‘delete’ hover over the Robert E. Lee monument,” Walton described when listing combined tradition and technology in his pieces. 

He also made sure to have references to New Orleans and Louisiana in most, if not all of his pieces.

While many of his pieces have a story or history behind them, Walton’s personal favorite when concerning that is his piece “Renovation Bowl.” He explained that it is because it is a tribute to one of the most disrespected events that come to New Orleans, the Bayou Classic. 

“This historically black college and university SWAC game is played in the Superdome every Thanksgiving with battle of the band events which feature local high schools and college marching bands that battle it out for an always hyped crowd. It always gets bad publicity because of what happens during non-official events and gatherings on Bourbon Street, there being the occasional French Quarter fight or shootings,” Walton explained. 

He went on to say that some of the restaurants close down for Thanksgiving, but these types of shutdowns come with a “closed for renovations,’ which is an excuse to not serve people of color because other events such as the R.L. Stein Garbage Bowl and Sugar Bowl do not share this issue of closures for renovations. 

When discussing his journey to Southeastern’s campus, Walton said he found his way here thanks to a studio visit with Cristina Molina, the SLU gallery director and associate professor of news media and animation. 

Molina had visited Walton to grab JPEGs of some of his work for a music video she had been working on. 

Upon seeing how much work Walton had in his space, she thought it would be a great idea to exhibit them on campus. 

With this exhibit, Walton encourages people to have Google open on their phones when visiting to figure out the references and codes. Molina has also provided small wall text in addition to the wall labels next to the paintings that will clarify the content that could fly over some viewer’s heads.  

“Black Paintings: Cybernetic Folklore, Place+Spirit” exhibit will be on view at the SLU Contemporary Art Gallery until Sept.2. Walton’s works can also be found on his Instagram (@john_isiah__vii_duragsaga2) as well as Southeastern’s gallery Instagram (@slu_contemporary).