This article was produced in partnership with T1.
Artists have for centuries found inspiration in their predecessors—whether it be the classics that are the basis of everything from Romanticism to Impressionism, or the more literal example of Andy Warhol’s rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Today, contemporary artist Louis Carreon—known for incorporating the essence of famed scriptures into his work—is taking on the Goliathan task of reincarnating Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 17th century David. At 8-feet tall, the colossal sculpture stands as a symbol of triumph amidst the chaos of the modern world, while echoing a timeless parable that’s befitting to our current culture.
With almost a decade of growth, success, and expanding ubiquity as an artist—all while building an international family of collectors—Carreon decided to speak his narrative onto a new medium with ancient roots: marble. We caught up with Carreon to get a breakdown of his powerful new piece, and to understand his vision for the aptly named, David Reincarnated.
What inspired you to leave your typical medium of painting and murals to venture into sculpture?
Louis Carreon: I think the world has come to a place where most artists I look up to don’t even paint or create their own stuff. It’s unrealistic to think that I could jump into carving or sculpting marble. I use my intellectual property and my concepts to construct something that will look like it came from a specific time period, and then I will deconstruct it like I do with my art, with my clothing, and with many other things in the 21st century.
I’m going to come in at the very end with chisels and carve and deconstruct the piece.
This is a collaborative piece with a master sculptor in Mexico City, who I’m taking lessons from.
Has COVID had an effect on the project, since international travel was put on hold? What about the art world in general?
As the world stopped or slowed down, many of my projects had to have the brakes put on them. Learning to adapt to Zoom as an artist was very difficult for me, as I like to do things in-person and am very hands-on when it comes to both meetings and collaborative art projects.
During the first few months of the lockdown, things really slowed down, but eventually business picked back up. I’m very blessed to have a great clientele—a lot of the oil paintings I created pre-COVID went to wonderful homes, proving that the dialogue between art and spirituality did not stop during this time.
Do you attest this to people’s reluctance to invest in the stock market during uncertain times, so they turn to art? Or do you think the increase in sales is due to people being drawn to, and inspired by, the spiritual aspect of your work during these dark and hard times?
I think it’s both. People are being forced to reckon with their own reality. So much of our world is fake right now—from Instagram fronting and the general facades people put out—and I think the spirit side is coming out during COVID, because there is no escape from our own demons, they need to be faced head on.
How did the idea of this “modern David” come to be?
Bernini’s David is one of my favorite pieces to look at. I always saw myself, and my friends, as the biblical David; we’ve always been fighting the system. Although I come from a graffiti background and have grown and transitioned, I still have my Goliath.
Everyone’s warrior is within them; I saw that and wanted to bring him into the modern day—with an iPhone in one hand and a Glock in the other. I think it marries academia, history, and the streets; that’s what embodies my spirit and my character, it’s a derivative of my art.
Can you elaborate on the point of seeing yourself as David, and conquering your own “Goliaths?”
David was not actually supposed to fight Goliath—in fact, he wasn’t even a warrior in the scripture. He ended up stepping up to the feet, and I think the purpose of the piece is to let everyone know that they have a warrior within. I have definitely overcome adversity, but it’s more about letting other people know, to inspire them to rise up and fight their own Goliath or demons. Whether your oppressor is your job, the government, addiction, your family, or a relationship, there is a solution, and you can rise up and become free—at least in your spirit.
In a time of social, political, and economic unrest is the sculpture of David meant to be a beacon of hope—that we too can conquer our collective darkness?
I for one am a child of the light, and I don’t think there is a collective darkness. I think there is currently a manipulation of reality, and the system and media want people to feel oppressed and down, to be fearful. I think everything is trying to close us off collectively to good food, good information, good air, and equality that keeps us open. The statue is meant for the now, it’s very contemporary and the right people will understand it. I think it’s going to be a voice for a lot of people—even those who may disagree with me.
Do you feel your own Goliath is behind you, or do the struggles of your past resurface from time to time—if so, does art and creating help you cope?
My Goliath will always be in front of me, as an addict. I have to be very open and acknowledge it. Once you can identify your own Goliath, you can start taking action on how to win your own war.
As someone who did not formally study art, are you worried about what art critics might say about you taking on one of the masters?
No, you can’t live your life thinking about what the critics will say. As an artist, you do have to study art, and I do on my own terms. The dialogue I’m having with Bernini is very contemporary. I’m marrying history—I’m marrying two worlds, and that’s going to be very powerful in the future. It’s not about these critics to me, it’s about the critics of the next 100, 200 years when the statue is still here. The critics who will love this aren’t even born yet.
Do you think this piece may be your legacy? What impact do you hope it makes?
I think this will be one of them. I can’t believe no one has done it, and it was simple to me. I think the future is really going to enjoy this when they look back on history. I’m just glad to be able to pay homage to Bernini, and all of the artists from that time period, by taking what they did and making it contemporary, giving it new life.
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