Paint it “Primitive Electric”: Artist LeRoi Debuts at Art Santa Fe 2018

Acclaimed New York-based artist LeRoi debuts at the international contemporary art show Art Santa Fe July 12th – 15th, 2018 with Colored People, an expressive series of figurative paintings that poetically consider human identity through primitivistic gesture.

Exhibiting alongside noteworthy galleries, art dealers, and established independent artists from around the world at the Santa Fe Convention Center, LeRoi’s solo exhibition at Art Santa Fe marks a continuation of the artist’s globally-inclusive dialogue on the world stage. Colored People at Art Santa Fe is an extensive survey of LeRoi’s work from this recent series and includes a number of works which have not yet been exhibited to the public.

A prolific self-taught artist, prominent New York lawyer, and the brother and former manager of R&B artist Rick James, LeRoi is best known for his anecdotal and polychromatic narrative paintings. Often described as “Afrocentrist” or “Pan-African”, LeRoi’s work is defined by a contemporary coalescence of religious motifs, cultural symbols, and modernist figures used to portray an incisive and underrepresented vision of the black experience. This distinct aesthetic is informed by more than forty years of experiential learning LeRoi garnered through frequent travels abroad, studious visits to major museums, and a nuanced study of the human condition. This is a practice which is unencumbered by market or academic regularities, representing instead the artists encounters with the world and his own human experiences.

Working primarily with oils and acrylics in a style the artist refers to as “Electric Primitive”—a vibrant modernization of the reductive lines, geometric shapes, and flat picture planes found in early cave paintings—LeRoi’s work is definitively recognized for the masterful layering of color and deft application of paint employed by the artist to create paintings of extraordinary saturation and density. Preferring to work in the dark without natural light, LeRoi says he achieves this particular stylization by “painting colors into the light, until they are visible in darkness”. Says LeRoi, “Maybe I’m color blind, but this is the way I see things”.

Colored People is a continued investigation by LeRoi’s into the material potential of paint, but it also marks a metaphoric consideration of color to envision social realities. In this regard, the title “Colored People” functions doubly; it is in reference of to one of the various racially-charged descriptors African Americans have been given in the course of history, and it also signifies the contemporary blending of people of all colors and identities on earth. There are no singularly colored people. LeRoi’s paintings are—through an astute layering and patient layering of color— a celebration of that depth of diversity.


LeRoi C. Johnson’s Colored People will be on exhibit to the public at the Santa Fe Convention Center at Art Santa Fe, July 12th – 15th, 2018.

You May Also Like