NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Michalopoulos Gallery is pleased to announce that Holding Forth, a painting by James Michalopoulos will be the featured artwork on the commemorative poster,Quarter (Love) Note, for the 2023 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The world’s most collected art poster, this is the seventh time that Michalopoulos’ work has been showcased, an unprecedented honor.
My primary inspiration for the poster is the vibrant life of New Orleans and the many particular ways that it shows up. The life of New Orleans at its root is foundationally musical, rhythmic. This time around, as opposed to a particular figure, we have the people of New Orleans as the focus of the piece. This is a slice of the life in the midst of the Festival season that shows some of the animated engagement that makes living in New Orleans the rich experience that it is.
This movement to the Jazz Festival is a kind of crescendo, one of the many throughout the year, but a profound moment where those with the ear respond to the call and they come and we unfold together. It is inseparable, honestly. You don’t have the music without the people and you don’t have the people without the music. What you see in this piece is the cast of characters in a sense, living and being lived in the Jazz Fest. The whole thing comes together as an observable phenomenon.
— James Michalopoulos
Holding Forth, a massive horizontal painting measuring 96″×144″, features 58 figures, many of which were selected from paintings spanning Michalopoulos’ career. His previous Jazz Festival posters have been vertical and have centered on a single artist. Regarding this change, Michalopoulos observed, “It was a risk to move from the traditional style of a portrait of a life to a portrait of the life. The biggest challenge was making the figures work, to have 58 figures in an image is itself a bit of a challenge. I was reminded of Bruegel’s struggles portraying the calamitous Middle Ages.”
Bud Brimberg, publisher of the official New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster, had this to say about the piece:
The French Quarter is a state of mind. A wavy-gravy surreal seventy square blocks tenuously tethered to the United States as a showcase of what a truly eternal, possible yet improbable, irreplaceable, authentic, livable US locale can be when left to its own organic evolution; perfectly human in scale and nature. A sensuous menagerie of diverse souls left to their own devices. He elevates his vision of the Quarter through a prism of Escher and Kafka, offering it to us as a gift of transcendent inhabitable resonant memories…. It’s unfettered real life filled with abstracted, angular archetypes in a place you’re lucky to dwell in if only for the blink of an eye. This piece encapsulates the artist’s life work in a panorama of exquisite color and detail; instantly recognizable as his oeuvre yet more expansive than anything that preceded it.
Fortunately some of this epic endeavor was captured by Seattle filmmaker Jason Jobes, who has been working on a feature-length film about James and was able to document the artist working on the painting at his studio in the Marigny.
Michalopoulos’ previous Jazz Festival poster subjects include: Dr. John (1998), Louis Armstrong (2001), Mahalia Jackson (2003), Fats Domino (2005), Allen Toussaint (2009), and Aaron Neville (2013).
Quarter (Love) Note can be pre-ordered via Art4Now. The 52nd Jazz Festival runs April 28 through May 7, 2023.