Fine Arts Life + Arts

UH grad earns month long solo exhibition

Garnering recognition and respect in the art community is the opposite of luck; it takes dedication, hard work and uniqueness to allow your pieces to stand out.

El Franco Lee II said those are his aims.

“I want to freeze money moments in time that reflect the state society is in, whether good or bad,” Lee said. “I’m holding a mirror up and reflecting my ideas and opinions at the same time.”

The University of Houston graduate is headlining his very own exhibition on July 9 in the Art Hub Gallery at Houston Community College Northeast. The exhibit will end its run on August 9.

Lee is the third artist to be featured at the newly minted gallery since its grand opening in February. He will send 45 works of art to the exhibit, which will include hand drawings as well.

Lee’s exhibit is called “True Realities: Confrontational Art.”

Lee said he expects to offend the viewer at times, but says you grow and learn from the message he depicts.

“(I want to show) my personal notes of things that need to be depicted in the painting medium — the lack of true representation of the southern black male experience in the art world.”

Lee’s favorite painting to be featured is “Red, White, Black, and Blue.”

It is an image that displays a mixture of sports stars of the past and present including athletes from the MLB, NBA and NFL in the midst of on-field conflict.

It also depicts a dead James Byrd, a victim of an infamous 1998 Texas hate-crime, in black and white.

“Tookie Williams Redemption” is another interesting piece that will be featured. It shows a larger-than-life Stanley Tookie Williams, who was a leader of the Los Angeles Crips street gang, encouraged an end to gun violence between rival gang members.

Williams’ hands are outstretched as he resides on a cloud that is raising him above the wretched reality that he helped create.

It is a sanctimonious portrayal of Williams and his “redemption.”

Some will disagree with elevating a convicted killer through this medium, but this painting is the essence of confrontational art.

“People can learn about what visual signals draw them to art as well as what symbolic aspect, popular culture aspect, figurative aspect (and) familiar visuals strike emotion. They will find out if art can trigger an emotion in them,” Lee said.

Lee is comfortable being the headliner of his own exhibit.

“I’ve had my fair share of solo exhibitions. I’d rather it be this way so my point can be fully understood,” he said.

Lee’s paintings combine realism and surrealism using scale to put together a compelling message.

Next for Lee are exciting opportunities overseas.

He is expected to participate in another art exhibit representing Texas and American contemporary art in the fall in Greece, which is not a bad follow-up to headlining your own exhibit.

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