Congo Square 2017
TAKING IT TO THE STREET: A Portrait of Jon Batiste
by Brandan “Bmike” Odums
Congo Square at the Jazz Festival is an expanse without artistic bounds. So it’s fitting that an artist whose talent can’t be contained within four walls portray one whose exuberance tracks Einstein's theory of special relativity - turning sheer energy into joyous musical mass. Both are New Orleans originals, graduates of New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), mentors and educators who leverage their artistry to better the world around them. These are young cats with long tails.
Jon Batiste is a virtuoso pianist, harmonaboard maestro and crooner who balances roles as bandleader on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem with teaching and acting (“Treme” and Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer”). Jon's special relativity begins with his membership in one of New Orleans’ great musical families. After NOCCA (studying alongside Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (CS09, JF12) under Ellis Marsalis (JF16) and Alvin Batiste, among others), Jon earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Juilliard.
His infectious musical energy is exemplified by his signature impromptu “love riots”, interactive “social music” that takes it to the audience and brings them onstage or out into the street, a 21st century update on New Orleans’ parade tradition. Jon’s incandescent charisma is showcased in ads for Chase Bank, the Apple Watch, Lincoln Continental, Polo Ralph Lauren Black Label, Kate Spade, Barney's and H&M, among others.
Brandan “Bmike” Odums works on an equally grand scale and likewise makes new use of old media. His canvas of choice is a concrete wall and his primary medium is spray paint. In 2013, Bmike created content-rich monumental public art in the 9th Ward Katrina-damaged Florida Housing Projects to focus attention on what had been and what had become. He organized other street artists into ProjectBe. In a parallel to hip-hop musicians selling music from car trunks, Odums realized that these visual artists were equally disconnected from traditional outlets. More than 70 abandoned housing units became a museum of political defiance that was ultimately shut down by the Housing Authority of New Orleans police.
In 2014 Odums reprised this coalition to cover the entirety of a 5-story abandoned apartment complex on New Orleans’ West Bank with art inside and out of this once-thriving community slated for demolition. Unlike ProjectBe, ExhibitBe was legal and open to the public every Saturday. It became the South’s largest street art gathering, attracting more than 30,000 visitors during its 3-month run. In 2016 Odums opened StudioBe, a 35,000 square foot solo exhibition housed in a transformed warehouse in the Marigny around the corner from NOCCA. Like his public works, this too was temporary and filled with monumental work. It was visited by thousands, including regional schools. Bmike's multi-disciplinary output is barely contained within the concept of "social artrepreneur."
In his exhibit and studio space, between school tours, Bmike conceived and created the 2017 Congo Square poster as a 12’ tall spray painting in a single kinetic all-night session. Odums envisions a sun-haloed Batiste strutting through a line-drawn phantasmagoria of a classic New Orleans neighborhood. Paint drips, smears, brush pulls and obscured graffiti reveal a freshness and spontaneous life that mirror’s his subject’s essential soul and the city that launched them both. Batiste’s luminescence turns up the chroma on the legend - a double entendre that encompasses the lettering and these twinned artists that keep it real every day.
2,000 Numbered prints on archival paper, 20" x 27”; $69
350 Artist-signed & numbered prints on 100% rag paper, 21" x 28”; $239
100 Artist signed and pencil remarqued by Bmike and signed by Jon Batiste numbered Remarque prints on 100% rag paper, 23” x 32”; $435
50 Artist-overpainted, signed by the artist and Batiste & numbered C-Marque canvas screen prints, 24" x 38" (unstretched size); $695
Poster specifications & digital image may vary slightly from actual print.
Image ©2017 art4now, Inc. / Text ©2017 ProCreations Publishing Company