Like the Realist painters of 19th century France, Walton exchanges the idealistic for the real in his work, continuing the avant-garde's ethos of merging art and life.

 John Isiah Walton was born in 1985 in New Orleans, where he currently lives and works. He took his first painting class to get high school credit, but after receiving positive feedback from teachers and friends on a painting that "wasn't even dry yet," he decided to make painting a full-time job and become an artist. Walton's works often depict life in New Orleans; his hometown experiences are reflected in his art.


Walton's breakthrough exhibition was Beaucoup Humidity, curated by the legendary Diego Cortez. "Beaucoup Humidity portrayed the past of a city I dearly miss - the New Orleans where I grew up. The behind-the-scenes people of my hometown who work in the service industry and live in pockets of poverty. It's humid here, from the temperature to the suffocating crime, which made my mom and grandma keep me inside the house as a child in the early 90s. I'm surrounded by so many cornball artists who portray the postcard tourist side of things. I wanted to capture the real city," explains Walton.


He depicts subjects that are often unconventional and, at times, shocking. Walton works in a reactionary mode. His visual language is influenced by internet aesthetics, black identity, pop culture, and Louisiana history to deliver poignant social commentary reflecting the contemporary world. In the tradition of Basquiat, his work often has hidden meanings and symbols, which are revealed through his neo-expressionist markings. The frenetic, choppy brushwork endows the work with the energy and intensity that the artist is known for.


Most of Walton's works are large-scale with strong conceptual undertones that help convey his "stinging social commentaries." He uses wit and irony to address the constructs of race and class with both irreverence and sensitivity, merging politically correct discourse with politically incorrect humor. His Zulu Portraits feature both black and white political leaders in Zulu blackface (worn by the Krewe of Zulu on Fat Tuesday), creating a type of neo-post-colonial portraiture.


Like the Realist painters of 19th century France, Walton exchanges the idealistic for the real in his work, continuing the avant-garde's ethos of merging art and life. He is concerned with how contemporary life is socially, economically, politically, and culturally, which sometimes leads to portrayals of life's unpleasantries. The artist explains, "I really felt like I needed to not do paintings of a carriage, plants, or people playing instruments. I needed to catch people robbing restaurants or a building burning down. I had to depict the real going on because it can always be swept away."


For example, Walton did an entire Rodeo series depicting the prison rodeo at the Angola State Penitentiary. These paintings attempt to bring to light the ridiculous pageantry of this inhumane rodeo. Walton's Rodeo works reflect his sarcastic tone, as Walton describes, "I wanted to catch one of the perks of being on good behavior in the Louisiana prison system."


Explaining how he chooses his subject matter Walton says, "New Orleans is one of those messy cities. I just try to catch everything. I catch my own vision of what it is for me to be here." For Walton, this type of creativity that draws from grounded, personal experiences are what separates him from other artists, "It's all about making it your own. The struggle forces you to be creative."


Walton has exhibited and continues to show in museums, galleries, art fairs, and biennials worldwide. The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art (Biloxi, MS); South Eastern Louisiana University (Hammond, LA); The Front (New Orleans); P339 (Brooklyn, NY); Atlanta Contemporary Biennial (Atlanta); Barrister's Gallery (New Orleans); Identity Books (Graham, NC). Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans); Tulane University (New Orleans); New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans); Art Lab Akiba (Ginza, Tokyo); Untitled Art Projects (Los Angeles); Home Space (New Orleans) among others. His residencies include the Macedonia Institute (Chatham, NY) and the Joan Mitchell Center (New Orleans). Walton was the first African American member of the artist collective The Front and a founding member of both The Level Artist Collective and the Second Story Gallery. He has lectured about his work to the graduate program at UNC, Chapel Hill, and has work in the permanent collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art.