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
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 39" (unstretched size); $695
Poster specifications & digital image may vary slightly from actual print.
Image ©2017 art4now, Inc. / Text ©2017 ProCreations Publishing Company