Leroy Johnson: What It Means to Be A Political Artist Today
“For me, the future as artists, we have to really question what our role is and how do we play in this society, especially when you think about in terms of being indivisible. How much are we part of this and how are we part of this?” — Leroy Johnson
In our increasingly polarized society and as the indivisibility we have been promised becomes further from our reality, what role do artists play in interrogating where we are now? The Indivisible 2020 virtual art exhibition starting October 24 and running until January 20 explores what it means to be indivisible and divided in today’s United States, and Not Real Art is proud to be a media partner.
The next few episodes of our podcast will be feature participating artists, and today’s guest, Leroy Johnson is a true political artist in every sense of the word. In this episode, Karen Fiorito, artist, 2019 Not Real Art Grantee and curator of Indivisible 2020 joins Sourdough to talk with Leroy about life, work and all things politics.
“I recognize that there’s all kinds of art and all kinds of markets and what we have to deal with, but I think we have to be concerned as artists about the intersectionality of it and are we just going to be set aside as losers and suckers who made the wrong choice about what we would do with our lives as opposed to being some corporate lackey that supports this lame system that has all these lies in it about freedom and justice and empowerment and equality and a desire for all of us to participate in the great American Dream? Look how shoddy and fragile that was.” — Leroy Johnson
In this podcast episode, we get to know Leroy, where he shares his understanding of being indivisible and how we have drifted from it. He does not simply believe that unity is about humans, but all earthlings and the exploitative, extractive nature of capitalism has completely shattered our respect for living beings. We also discuss the importance of artists giving their voices to causes rather than creating for entertainment’s sake. As a former Black Panther and Civil Rights activist, Leroy has seen how art can aid social movements, and he shares the disappointment at the lack of civic foundation of a lot of today's art. Despite highlighting some of these shortcomings, Leroy’s message is still one of hope and empowerment as he believes art is the ultimate medium to communicate the truth that capitalism and the powers that be seek to hide. Be sure to tune in today!
“The only voice that we have now, because of the Supreme Court, is art. Art is one of the few places where minorities, people who are disempowered can have a chance to say something.” — Leroy Johnson
Key Points From Leroy Johnson This Episode:
- The motivation for curating Indivisible 2020, a political art exhibition.
- Some of the artists participating in the show and upcoming guests on the podcast.
- Leroy’s understanding of indivisibility and how he feels artists have been deceived.
- Our human-centric view that is fueled by capitalism.
- Leroy’s disappointment in some artists who hold back from speaking out.
- The permanence of art and how we have lost the cultural value of creative work.
- The choice that artists have to make to truly speak out against the system.
- How Karen and Leroy met, over 20 years ago.
- What excited Karen, as the curator, about including Leroy in the Indivisible show.
- Leroy’s supportive family and growing up in an extremely diverse neighborhood.
- The superficiality of art currently and the lack of historical memory.
- Why artists are not entertainers and should not create only to entertain.
- Why, no matter how bad things get in America, Leroy would never leave.
- Leroy’s take on artist activism in the 60s compared to now.
- The loss of community among artists and the prevalence of individualistic thinking.
- Artists are exploited are every level, from buying materials to the end product.
- Leroy’s take on meditation and the role it plays in his life.
- Why the notion of the common good is becoming increasingly difficult to get behind.
“We should respect and enjoy our diversity and preserve our unique customs and share them without fear and hostility.” — Leroy Johnson
Links Mentioned in Leroy Johnson’s Episode:
- Indivisible 2020 — https://creweststudio.com/indivisible-2020/
- Karen Fiorito — https://karenfiorito.wixsite.com/buddhacat
- Karen Fiorito on Twitter — https://twitter.com/buddhacatpress?lang=en
- Leroy Johnson — https://www.leroyjohnsonart.com/
- Leroy Johnson on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/leroy_johnson_art/
- Joseph Beuys — https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Beuys
- James Brown — https://www.biography.com/musician/james-brown
- Betsy DeVos on Twitter — https://twitter.com/BetsyDeVosED
- Richard Wright — https://www.biography.com/writer/richard-wright
- Langston Hughes — https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/langston-hughes
- Barnes Foundation — https://www.barnesfoundation.org/
- Jean-Michel Basquit — http://basquiat.com/
- Black Panthers — https://www.history.com/topics/civil-rights-movement/black-panthers
- Man One — http://www.manone.com/
- Man One on Twitter — https://twitter.com/ManOneArt
- Scott “Sourdough” Power — https://www.instagram.com/sourdoughpower/
- Not Real Art — https://notrealart.com/
- Not Real Art School — https://school.notrealart.com/
- Not Real Art on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/notrealartworld
“We can’t just be in a system where we allow corporate America to provide all the information.” — Leroy Johnson