“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I write to tell you of the passing of Professor Louis Delsarte.
Louis taught art at Morehouse for 16 years and was a pillar of our community and a highly regarded artist and educator. Many of our men of Morehouse were taught and mentored by him. It was clear to all that his love for Morehouse and dedication to our students was deep and unyielding. — David A. Thomas, Ph.D., President, Morehouse College
Louis J. Delsarte (09/01/1944 – 05/02/2020) an American artist of African and French ancestry known for what critics have referred to as his “illusionist” style. He is a painter, draftsman, muralist, printmaker, and poet. While growing up in New York City, Delsarte was surrounded by music including jazz, opera, musicals, and the blues. His parents were friends with artists and entertainers from the Harlem Renaissance like Lena Horne, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes. These influences along with his knowledge and interest in African American history and world culture have served as an inspiration for his art.
Delsarte attended Wingate high school in Brooklyn, NY, earned his Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts at New York’s Pratt Institute, and obtained a Masters Degree in Fine Arts at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. Delsarte also received certification in Fine Arts Education from Brooklyn College in New York City. During his formative years, he attended art classes at the Brooklyn Museum and the Hans Hoffman School of Art. Delsarte has taught painting and drawing at numerous colleges and universities over the past 42 years. Currently, he is an Associate Professor in Arts and Humanities at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Delsarte’s career as an artist for the past 50 years has complemented his career as an educator.
Delsarte’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries throughout the United States including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, the California African-American Museum, the Camille Hanks Cosby Museum at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Delsarte’s work is in numerous public collections including the Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta and the National Gallery of Art in Bermuda.
Delsarte has been commissioned to complete several important mural projects. In January 2010, Delsarte’s mural, Dreams, Visions and Change, The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mural was dedicated at Peace Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia. The 129 ft. mural, commissioned by the city of Atlanta celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A spirit chasing rainbows, The art of Louis Delsarte
There is always a spirit of movement in the art of Louis Delsarte, with colors and compositional elements taking the viewer through worlds that float and balance between magical lyricism and impressionistic social realism. While many find it easy to settle on the beautiful figurative forms in his art, for me the real aesthetic action takes place in the swirling brush strokes, stains, splatters and washes that uphold the figurative elements.
Teetering on the void between figurative and abstraction, a Delsarte painting moves the eyes through a spatial carnival of colors that are a hallmark of Delsarte’s mature work, colors and forms that vibrate with almost sentient life on the canvas and paper he has applied them to. From these initial layers Delsarte coaxes into being figurative elements that emerge like the sunrise from the horizon. Delsarte’s sensual depiction of the human form in his work is reminiscent of the works of renaissance masters, and what is captured in the subject matter of his art can be seen as a Diaspora of cultural experiences. We start visually with a black and creole lineage running from Africa, Europe and the Caribbean world. From the roots of these artistic, cultural and spiritual influences we run through the artistic signifiers of the Harlem Renaissance with its classic jazz age idioms and iconography. One can almost hear in the colors of Delsarte’s art, the musical tones of Ellington’s big band coursing through the undercurrents. From there we move into
the African American cabarets of Parisian exile, to the 1950’sand 60’s hot civil rights summers of turmoil and the flower drenched 60’s summers of love. How does one reconcile the blues, gospel and jazz with the psychedelic dreams of late sixties Americana and find a unlimited middle path that reaches for the best of both worlds. Delsarte’s life as an artist has taken him through the Brooklyn streets of post- Renaissance struggles between black sustainability and neglect and black power, through college friendships with future cultural innovators such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith to rubbing shoulders with Romare Bearden, Catlett and countless other living legends of American art. The art of Louis Delsarte has always captured the pain, romance and poignant imagination of the American Dream and through that dream a universal language concerning the human condition. When I speak of a spirit chasing rainbows, I speak of the my first impression of Delsarte’s art. I speak of a master colorist whose work sings to the eyes as only one who has spent years investigating through deep intentional and improvisational practice can do. Neat categories do not exist to label this work. Delsarte’s art exist as a visual keeper of all our migratory greatness, restless as a late period Coltrane ensemble solo and still moving forward toward a promised land of cosmic unknowns and limitless possibilities.