1.) Can you tell me a bit about your background/upbringing ?
Langston : So, I'm not from New Orleans, I'm actually from Champagne , Illinois , which like right in the middle of Illinois. It's 127 miles from Chicago , so I'm really like..i don't know...It's kind of a small town. But uh....my pops was really into like books and art and all that. He's like an avid collector of comic books and like poetry....and like really all types of books. So I grew up like...surrounded by seeing art through the books he had. And, my parents have both been kind of mad supportive about me pursuing life as an artist. They've been like... I don't know... not uhh...yeah they just always kind of believed that I'd figure out a way to pull it off. Which is cool. And uh... it's a stable foundation, I'm very thankful that I had that.
2.) When did you develop the passion for drawing/painting?
Langston: Uh ... I've always been passionate about it. It's like the main thing I've always done. uhh... yeah since I was a little kid. Just constantly drawing. I ....I don't know ..until kind of recently i drew like every single day. And now, I do something like drawing adjacent every single day but it might just be like...just driving to the store to buy pens or something. It's not quite the same anymore but it used to be like constantly ,everyday, all day...drawing. Now, because I work on more complicated stuff..uhh there's more planning , and thinking, and like organizing stuff. But, I used to be just like laying on the floor, like scribbling , and like coloring with markers.
3.) What/who are you most influenced by?
Langston: Uhh my influences change all the time. I'm always looking at different artists....uhh I'm always looking at different artists. uhh I'm always looking for different types of inspirations....who am i influenced by most right now ?? I'm actually...like sometimes I'm into like historic inspirations. Umm and I've been drawing these faces, and it's more like an abstract face, it's not really like supposed to be a real portrait. And I've been thinking a little bit about what are the origins. Like the shapes that I'm using. And so I'm looking through art history trying to figure like what am i getting this from. And i came across the Benin bronzes, which is a large amount of artwork...that was ...uh stolen from the kingdom of Benin by ...I think...the British...uhh and then like distributed all over the world to like ..colonial collectors. And uhh ... some of the like heads are like very reminiscent of faces and shxt that i draw. And so I've been kind of like looking at those and like drawing little copies and stuff like that. They're just like loose drawings to the side but its kind of informing how I'm changing the way that i paint people because i want them to be more like uhh..icons than portraits. And so, I've been trying to think of different ways to do that. And looking back at african art has been helpful for that.
Pro$per: And that's crazy because the abstract faces were coming from stuff you were pulling from your mind and you were able to correlate it to...
Langston: yeahh...well i think...Im always pulling from different influences. And like..the shape that I'm using for a face now comes from all over the place. Uhhh i was looking before this alot also at like ..Ethiopian uhh like church painting and stuff like that. That actually chief Demond put me on to that. Cause he had a whole like Ethiopia suit , where he had like the angels and he had like...it was like... the way he had all the iconography laid out was crazy. It was this green suit uhh from a couple years ago. Maybe 2020.uhhh And i got kind of put on to that style by him. And then so i started looking at those faces and my faces started getting more simple. And uhh..they kind of actually just got more round...like...those faces. And then I've been looking at other influences too... trying to ....not get away from that influence...but just add other elements..
Pro$per: yeah yeah...you making it your own... Langston: yea...yea or not even making it my own..but just like incorporating these pieces of history into the piece i think gives it a different element of power and lets it speak to something else beyond just like the scene that it's in.
Pro$per: it tells a story..
Langston: Yeah , it's cool.
4.) What does your creative process consist of?
Langston: Uhh I draw a lot still. So, ill like generally, most paintings start with like i'll see something in the city like when I'm riding around. And then... I'll remember it and then ill come back and ill draw some version of it. And then, eventually the drawing will turn into a painting or something like that. But yeah its mostly just like me remembering something that I've seen
5.) Do you have a favorite mural you've painted? If so, where? and why ?
Langston: Oh yeah its uhh...the one..it's at this organization called the block near Chicago, in west humble park. And its like an old church that's converted now to like a boxing gym for like kids..it's like a free boxing gym for kids..and I got to do this really like extensive install for them. We like took down the crucifix that was in the church. uhh and then put up these big giant aluminum panels and uhh I had like a whole mural on that. And also there were two, like in the two other corners of the church and we also put like aluminum panels and i got to do kind of like paintings of boxers for the sanctuary.. it looks really really cool.
Pro$per: man that's amazing. That sounds amazing. I feel like i might have seen a post you did about that. A while back. Yeah i remember that.
Langston: yeah i posted it for sure. It was probably the end of summer 2020
Pro$per: I remember seeing it. I remember seeing that type of set up.
Langston: Anytime that i can like interact with architecture in an interesting way is something ima be really excited about.
Pro$per: was it on like stained glass windows?
Langston: It was next to stained glass windows and the paintings that kind of matched them...but it was on aluminum panels. So they are stained glass windows that run up next to it...and the color palette comes from the stained glass. I love church architecture. I'm not super strongly religious person but like the architecture of churches really blows my mind. And you know ...it's cool how a space can put you in like a ...spiritual headspace. Whenever you walk into like a well designed sanctuary I feel like kind of does that. So anytime I can have my art interact with that kind of...presence of mind from the person who built the building...is a special thing.
Pro$per: yeah that's definitely true. It's Almost like the intention behind the beautification of a space does something for your psyche.
6.) How do you approach a new body of work?
Langston: uhhhh..that changes with every body of work for sure. And it's been getting more...like the one I most recently did was for a show that I had in L.A. And that one was kind of like the loosest...connection between pieces that I think that I had presented yet. But I was really happy with it.. I'm used to working really quickly on stuff. So I like a series of things really fast and I'll relate it to one topic. That was how I was making things for a long time. And then with this recent show I had a lot more time to work on it. And uh..so...I was kind of...at certain points I was kind of like grasping at straws like figuring out what's going to tie all these things together but mostly it's been like ..trying to present things through my perspective I guess. uhh ..that's what I've been doing recently. I've been kind of loosening up what a body of work is all together. Cause it used to be pretty rigid. It used to be all like one idea. Like make sure I get it across. And now.. i kind of have the luxury of people having seen a bunch of those so they kind of know where I'm coming from. and uh ..So I'm like i think trying to present more ideas. Or like more diverse images
Pro$per: sounds like you're in a more free flowing space.
Langston: Yeah right now I am especially because I'm not working on any particular projects in the studio. That's going to change in a couple of weeks but right now I'm feeling very groovy and like...
Pro$per: Yeah that's fun. I feel like the best work comes from that.
Langston: Yeah I've been telling people I've been lazy all week and honestly it feels great. Cause I haven't been lazy in a long time.
Pro$per: yeah I'm about to say..you work hard man.
7.) Do you prefer working alone or in collaboration? Langston: Oh that's a cool question because I'm going to work on a collaborative project this summer uhh that I'm really looking forward to. I generally prefer working alone. But I recently did a piece in my home town that was kind of collaborative with the whole community there. And tons of people put their hands on it and painted it. And uhh it was even designed with a group of people that are all kind of like picking out elements and figuring out how things should be shaped. So it was like a very collaborative process. And i forgot that i enjoyed doing things like that. But like you know...seeing everybody like kind of pull something back out of the mural i was doing i was like ohh this was like super worth it. So uhh I'm like getting more energized about collaboration now than I have been in a while. and uhh..I don't know I'm excited..im looking forward to trying some new collaborations.
Pro$per: I'm looking forward to seeing what's to come from that....Its been some pivotal moments where i feel like your artwork has done a great job at relaying a message when it comes to uhh you know ...current issues dealing with social injustice and what not...so i want to say or ask...
8.) How does your work comment on current social or political issues ?
Langston: uhh I think now its just like...I think that that has changed a little bit over time. It used to be that i wanted to make a really specific critique or a point like a bring awareness type thing. And i think like over the arc of this like...I started being particularly committed to that in like...after Ferguson so i guess that was 2014. That's when i was committed to like. Its like ok I have to make people aware of like injustice and make people aware of individual issues. Stuff like that. And so i was kind of focusing my work around that for a while. And that was like the structure of my whole like what I did as a artist. That was like the first thing i was thinking about. And then like....over time I guess...not to be pessimistic...cause this is not..uhhh....I don't know...I feel like that type of work didn't have the impact i wanted it to have. Ummm and then so I've been...not pivoting away from that...not saying the things less..but just like feeling less obligated to say them......like specifically... not making propaganda...making uhhh I guess like artwork that is its own story. Cause i think there's a lot of utility in propaganda And I think that's something i was committed to making previously. Umm but i just like....i don't get as much energy from that anymore. I want to express like...uhh...more personal narratives I think. I want to express like more intimate pictures now. So, I've like pivoted away from doing explicitly political work to doing like work that I think is political but like that's not the first point of departure for it. Like i want you to just be like looking through a window into a place and like feel like... I don't know...feel like you can understand the story and see yourself in this moment...
Pro$per: yeah its more immersive you know...
Langston: Yeahh yeah yeah..and like in the moment you know..as you look at it you might understand a political dimension to it. But like..uhhh it's not like the primary thing that makes me make art anymore. Uhh I'm still extremely motivated to make art..I'm like really excited about the work that I'm making now. Its just like..not uhh ...it's not directly primarily political.
Pro$per: yeah i can relate to that...There's a certain piece that you have...The really big black and white piece..i think you did with maybe a black paint pen....i think and it was ...the horse..and uhhh
Langston: ohhh yeahhhhh
Pro$per: you had that in a few shows..and I think about...I read some of the text that was in that...it was a lot of text. That was a really very intricate body of work And it had very precise messages in it..you know?
Langston: Yeah ...I think that was actually ..that group of pieces was the ones where i transitioned out of wanting to make ..specifically political stuff. To like trying to be like more....umm....I don't know
Pro$per: it seemed like more of an observation of your immediate environment
Langston: Yeah that's where I think I was trying to establish my voice as clearly as I could. Like i was having all these thoughts and i was like...i don't know how to put this into like a individual painting...so i was like let me just write it out..and try to get my balance that way..let me like write out all the things I'm thinking and then like...i can kind of establish my perspective a little bit..maybe...for myself...
Pro$per: cause you're thinking as you are writing it...but you are thinking about it?
Langston: it was all stream of consciousness stuff ...like all those..and all those drawings..and there's i think four of them. Like four really big ones. ..... They all .....came together really fast... like after like seeing a moment where I'm like ok I have all these thoughts..i want to like process them. They all came together in like...you know... two or three days... at the most. So it was like a lot of writing...like..really quickly....
Pro$per: Yeah ...cause you wrote a lot man... And they were very...they were precise thoughts...they didn't seem like scattered. You know...they kind of flowed into each moment that you were explaining.
Langston: Yeah...I haven't been able to write like that in a while. I would like to revisit that type of work...but its really like...its like taxing stuff. To like kind of get deep in your head like that..and its been a while since I've been able to do that.
9.) What has been the biggest challenge on your artist journey thus far and how did you overcome it?
Langston: uhhhh..man. I was just really broke honestly. That was a big challenge for most of the time I was a artist. Uhh and I just overcame it by being like..determined and lucky...i think. Its like...its not even really overcome yet..you know what I'm saying ? Yeah...its just like...for a long time I didn't have...really the resources to make things that i wanted to make. And uhh..its just been like a gradual process of like...figuring out what those resources are and trying to amass them. And like..trying to have like the time..also. That was also tricky. I always made the time but it came at the price of other things.
Pro$per: That was the sacrifice. You know. You become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You know...you go with less than for the greater good.
Langston: Yeah. yeah yeah. And you know..that happened for a while. And it worked out i guess basically....But yeah ..that's probably..if we're talking about realistic challenges it was just like...not having the resources at all. And not knowing where to turn for them either. Like not knowing where they came from..
Pro$per: I feel like something that ... more times than not..that's where a lot of people get stuck.
Langston: yeah i think so.
Pro$per: Not even knowing what to ask. Not knowing what questions to ask to even know what are these resources that I don't have that i need ..you know ?
Langston: Yeah yeah..It's so tricky to get in the right places to where its like you're question is like heard...and your request for resources is valued. Cause it's like ..everybody needs everything. It's like...yeah...it's tricky. It's tough. I wish I had better advice for people trying to navigate it.
Pro$per: Nah, but that's actually really great advice. Being able to even just elaborate that..you know ? Cause then it's like...you'll start to... pay more attention to like...you know...what is the information I need to acquire to know what to ask. Like ..I got to be aware of what I'm experiencing...what I'm taking in..you know? And..being able..to uhh...to just really be able to grasp what it is I need ...you know?
Langston: Part of it is also learning..like how much it actually does take to execute these projects that you're seeing in the world right? So like you see something that you want to do..and you're like....oh i bet i can do that right? I bet i can do that myself. I remember thinking that a million times about a million different things. And then you try to do it yourself and you find out...you don't have the skills yet. And you don't even know what you need to know. You don't know what you need to find out. And then like...its just like gradually building your awareness of different things. And knowing when to ask for help and knowing who's help to ask for.
Pro$per: And there's a sense of vulnerability that has to come from even putting yourself out there like that. To try to find it. To try to find that information. You're at the ground level..trying to figure it out.
10.) You recently had a residency at the Joan Mitchell center, can you tell me more about that experience?
Langston: Oh yeah, that was really cool. That was like uhh..It was a cool experience. Normally its i think it's like..a little bit more of like an international or at least people coming from all over coming to the residency ..experience. But the covert I guess that I was with. It was mostly people from New Orleans cause it was like during the pandemic time. uhh and so it was cool. I got to interact with a lot of artists who were around. And it was good ...kind of like experience meeting those people and seeing their work. And like..even though we were mostly on zoom and shxt...like..even just talking to people regularly was cool at that time. And the studios are just beautiful. Like the facilities they have are crazy. So..it really gave me the bug to go and get a nice studio. Cause i was working before that..just out of my house. I have a big front room that was just a studio. For like a long time. And then... as soon as i was at Joan Mitchell and i had that separation between home and the studio..and uhh I also had so much space in there and so much life..I was like I cant go back to just working in the house. So..I ended up getting the place that we're at now. Basically off the strength of like.. going to Joan Mitchell and realizing what i didn't have. It's like...sort of the same answer as the previous question. You don't know what you need until you get it. I thought that I was...I was making a lot of work. A lot of the stuff we were talking about was made in my house. but you know? But it was also holding me back in terms of..it was small...
Pro$per: Yeah I mean yeah. You had an experience that was meant to happen and put you in the space you're in now. You know? That moment was destined to come regardless you know?
Langston: that's probably the coolest thing that came out of it. And then also you know, its just like a good connection builder... it's like a prestigious residency. I don't know if i want to do a ton of residencies...cause ..if I could stay in New Orleans and be working consistently in the same space ..I think I'm like happier...but it was cool to try it out.
Pro$per: Right. Well that's definitely dope man. It's amazing space. I remember uhh back in 2016 Ayo Scott was doing PASS IT ON over there..
Langston: Yeahhh i remember going to that.
Pro$per: Yeah i did...one of the nights. That was the first time i showed any of my work to the public. and it was uhh at PASS IT ON at the Joan Mitchell center.
Langston: Yeah man that was really cool. I think that's where I first met Ayo too.
Pro$per: Yeah i can see that. Those were amazing. Those ones at Joan Mitchell center just had a different dynamic to it you know? It's just like, you know there was more production elements involved.. And umm..it was really dope. I think back I'm like ...wow...those were special times..and man we actually probably need to bring that back you know. It would be cool..
Langston: Yeah I don't know if they're starting events again. I don't know what it would take to do something like that in there. But yeah that was a really cool platform for a lot of people. I showed work in there to actually...I had some pieces up in pass it on...i forger when...but it was probably around that same time.
11.) Can you tell me more about your recent series titled "off the porch" and what it represents?
Langston: So that was like the preview show for a bigger show I actually had there in March at the THINK SPACE GALLERY in L.A. And i just called it that cause it made me feel like..i was at a L.A gallery I felt like i was doing something cool so..I like leveled up. Yeah.. It was just like a slight little flex you know ?
Pro$per: Why not ? You work hard man.
Langston: Yeah..but the actual show...well not the actual show..That was like a small show in the front room of the gallery.,,and it was like previewing people the stuff that i was bringing to the show that I had this past March that was called BLUE CITY. And that was the one i was talking about where I have..i had a lot more time to make it. Than I'm used to.
Pro$per: That's the one where you shipped off all that work for?
Langston: Yeah yeah yeah. That was a cool one.... It definitely felt like a next level as an artist experience. Think space just has great facilities and they're awesome to work with. Like they have lights from Japan or some shxt. You know what i mean ? its just like fancy in there. They like do a good job. So seeing my work hung up and lit up...it was cool. It was really cool.
Pro$per: That's dope. Congratulations on that.
12.) Your hometown basketball team , The Chicago Bulls, gave you the opportunity to design your own variation of their team hats, what was that experience like for you?
Langston: That was really cool. They give away artist hats like...a number of them every year. I forget exactly how many artists it was this year. But i think like six or eight people did hats. And it's like a lot of artists from Chicago that I really love their work. Uhh so that was really cool. Its like my peers on the project are raw. And all the hats that got made came out super sick. The Bulls are actually like super chill to work with. I've worked with a lot of brands and sometimes it's complicated and theirs like lawyers involved like changing how you're design is because THE LAW or what ever. But the Bulls have such a strong logo.. they never changed it. And their brand identity is like so global that they were just like super...and i think their also just cool...like the people that worked over there were cool..and like anything I wanted to do they were like...yeah ...whatever..cool... do it! I was able to like Change the logo and shxt like that. It was crazy. They were like yeah super nice. And then they were..really diligent about making sure the hat was exactly how I wanted it. They got samples in. And we looked through the samples it was...a very fun...also very easy designing experience. Cause it was like a lot of support from the organization. Sometimes you go in..im not really a designer and so I'm presenting like a handful of sketches..and like random photoshop files and shxt. And like being like...can you make your thing out of this ?? and sometimes it's like a huge headache. But uhh with them it was just super easy..The guy I sent it to was just like yeah....instantly made it..exactly looked like how the hat was going to look. Sent that to China..and they sent him a hat back. And then he said...does it look how you want? And then we changed it. And then..they gave it away to five thousand people. It was cool as fxck.
Pro$per: That's amazing. Yeah man and that hat so fire bro. I really be rocking that thing every other day. Cause its...I've never seen anything like it. I usually don't even wear hats. I mean, Now that i got my hair braided i can wear it..you know? but yo..
Langston: I wanted to make one that i would want to wear. I based it off i think it was like the '97 .....it was like the '97 championship hat.
Pro$per: Yeahhhh it felt nostalgic. But it was still like a unique design. It was the feeling of it but it was progressive you know? Yeah that was amazing.
Langston: Yeah i was trying to mix the old with the new a little bit...
13.) Are there any places that you would like to have your work exhibited that you haven't shown at yet?
Langston: Yeah tons of places ..definitely..yeah
Pro$per: top 3 ?
Langston: Top 3?? I don't know. I mean i want to get my work into like a museum for sure. Like a big serious museum. I had a piece at the C. A. C that was really cool. That's obviously a museum. and uhh Yeah and I've had work in institutions like that before. But i would be cool to have some shxt in like...I don't know like.. the MoMa or like you..know a big.. walk into it like huge hall museum. uhh. I don't know. I'd like to do that. I'd like to make like a giant piece that goes to a museum. So that's the goal.
Pro$per: Yeah that's fire.
Langston: Yeah. My friend Devin is working on that right now. Devin Reynolds?
Pro$per: Yeah yeah! Shout out to Devin we went to college together.
Langston: Yeah he's working on a crazy museum show right nw...and that shxt is like...mad inspiring.
Pro$per: Devin is insanely talented.
Langston: Yeah he's a genius.
Pro$per: he's a great guy. Great spirit.
Langston: Yeah but..so I want to do something like that on day. We'll see when I get to it.
Pro$per: Dev, ima have to come check that out man ...thats whats up !
Langston: I think it's in like Palm Springs or some shxt? That sounds like it's worth the trip man.
Langston: Yeah i would like to check it out.. I'm down to go.
Pro$per: Yeah ..we might have to make that trip Dev. Alright my brother shout out to him.
14.) What do you find exciting about the emerging generation of young artists today?
Langston: Uhhhh man I mean. I don't know. Everyone always has a different perspective of everyone that came before them. They understand the world through different eyes. People are literate in different tools and technology than they ever have been. It's just like a cool era..And I feel like the envelope has been pushed for mixing genre's and ideas a lot. There's like international influence for so many people. yeah.. I don't know. It's good. It's cool to see what young people are doing all the time
Pro$per: Yeah...definitely just keeps us open to other possibilities you know?
15.) What do you enjoy doing when you're not creating?
Langston: Awww man. This is kind of like the main thing I do I'm not even gone lie to you. I just stay inside and paint damn near...
Pro$per: That's what he enjoys doing...
Langston: yeah yeah..that's what i enjoy doing...i wish i had a better answer. I need a hobby ! but right now I'm kind of damn near hobby less.
Pro$per: I think uhh, hey man..there's a reason why you are where you are...and it show's...it show's the work that you put in and it shows that you're passionate about it. And I think that's something to uhh...that's a blessing in itself for real for real.
16.) How do you see your work evolving over the next few years? is there anything you think you want to transition to maybe..aside from painting?
Langston: I want to start figuring out new tools obviously...I started using the air brush I'm enjoying it. I'm going to get like more different types of art tools. And like try and invest in the craft that way. See if i can teach myself some new skills. I want to get into 3d stuff a little bit. So I've been thinking about projects...that can kind of push me in that direction. Just because it's something that i haven't done a lot of..that I would like to...I don't know...I'd like to try it.
Pro$per: That sounds like that'd be really cool
Langston: Yeah. So you know. Just more of that. Like kind of mixing up medias more and more. I've been incorporating collage and lots of different types of paintings into paintings recently. So i kind of just want to go in that direction and use diversity of materials.
17.) Where can we find your work and keep up with future showings, news, etc.? Langston: Basically just general info updates on instagram @LANGSTONALLSTON and then if you want to get a piece it's best right now to reach out to THINK SPACE GALLERY. I have another show coming up in the fall when they'll be some stuff available. And uhh..I'm working on some prints but i don't know exactly when they're coming out. They got to get..made. So prints eventually. Show in the fall. THINK SPACE has i think a couple pieces over there right now.