“High Flying and Living Large: The Paintings of James Michalopoulos” Opens at Historic City Hall in Lake Charles

Published 7:36 am Friday, September 17, 2021

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A new exhibit featuring the works of New Orleans’ most recognized living artist will open at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center on Thursday, September 23. “High Flying and Living Large: The Paintings of James Michalopoulos” features fifty colorful and energetic compositions that span the artist’s career. The exhibit includes landscapes, architecturals, animals, sunflowers, and cityscapes. It will hang in the third floor gallery through Saturday, November 27.

A Pennsylvania native, Michalopoulos was drawn to New Orleans in 1981 as the last bastion of hippie bohemian culture in America. He began sketching artists and musicians, houses and street corners. Fascinated with the duality of beauty and decay, the architecture of the city became his muse. Through his portraits of shotgun houses and Creole cottages, a singular style emerged. Capturing the spirit and the essence of his subject in layer upon layer of thick impasto paint, a portrait of the city appeared, brimming with color and energy.

In the early 1990s, he operated a studio out of Lausanne, Switzerland, and exhibited there, as well as in Geneva, London and Berlin. Today he divides his time between New Orleans and Burgundy, France. The French countryside–with its Roman era stone buildings and verdant fields–has become a large focus of his work.

Explaining his creative methodology, Michalopoulos says, “My process is not literal or linear. I’m seeking the spot where there is some dance going on. Looking for reality, a force–or something essential that is enlivening. In a way, to live and be lively is the most important thing with art, and having the courage to honor what shows up and share it. My obligation is to be open to the poetic, to penetrate to poignancy. I allow myself to follow and communicate what beauty I find in what I see and hope that it elicits that same something in somebody else.”

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival honored him as Official Artist six times, more than any other artist in the festival’s history. In the early years, his atelier printed the posters using a remarkable 36 screen hand-pulled process.

His artwork continues to be shown extensively in the U.S. and abroad. His paintings are in numerous public and corporate collections, including: Universal Studios, the Chrysler Corporation, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Chevrolet Motor Corporation, and Northwest Airlines; as well as in the collections of Bruce Willis, Jackson Browne, John Goodman, Linda Hamilton, Tony Curtis, Bonnie Raitt, Sharon Stone, Aaron Neville, Emmylou Harris, and many others.

“We have been looking forward to hosting this exhibition for more than two years now,” said Matt Young, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Lake Charles. “We’re thrilled to showcase the work of an artist of Mr. Michalopoulous’ caliber in southwest Louisiana. We had originally scheduled the exhibition for 2020 but had to reschedule due to Hurricane Laura. This particular collection of works, however, is every bit worth the wait.”

While visiting the Center, be sure to see “Melanin in the Canvas” by Lloyd G. Wade in the Black Heritage Gallery, as well as “Rising Above” for Gallery by the Lake. Both exhibits will close on Saturday, September 25. Also on the second floor, Gallery by the Lake presents the online group exhibition titled “Hit Me with your Best Shot!” This is a national competition and exhibition of photographs of birds found in the United States. The photographs will be on display through Saturday, October 16.

Historic City Hall is located at 1001 Ryan Street has resumed normal business hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. Following Louisiana’s COVID-19 guidelines, visitors are encouraged to wear masks and use hand sanitizer, which is located throughout the building. Charlestown Farmers’ Market is open on Bilbo Street behind the center every Saturday 8 a.m.-noon. For more information, please call 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.