This Celebrity Artist Left Prison to Paint Private Jets

Now, as everyone has even more reason to seek out the next Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louis Carreon, a California-based contemporary artist, is enjoying an uptick in appreciation for his work. Carreon, whose colorful oeuvre at first glance smacks a bit of the aforementioned superstar’s—what with its crudely rendered figures and street-style flair—is collected by a number of L.A. celebrities of a certain ilk: Paris Hilton, Colin Farrell, Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame. Colorful, too, is his own past. Before breaking onto the West Coast art scene, he was incarcerated in federal prison for drug-related crimes.

“The pain of going to prison, to watch your own social funeral from the outside and be forced to battle your demons and the demons of others, well now, when you emerge for this type of situation,” he says, musing on his not-too-distant past. Finally free from addiction, Carreon, 40, was finally able to work hard for his future. “Growing up in pursuit to gain respect on the streets,” he adds, “the street is a much harder audience then billionaires or celebrities.”

But how, exactly, did Carreon, whose solo exhibition, “No Unsolicited Submissions,” opens this week at the Hamilton Selway Gallery in L.A., go from jailbird to painting private jets?

Vicodin by Carreon.

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

To hear the artist tell his story, it all began with a vision, some spray paint, and a lot of gumption. In 1999, he started tagging his own clothes, including some vintage Levis, then bought a rolling rack and wheeled his first collection, “with cigarette burns and smelling of spray paint” into luxe retailer Fred Segal. “I was like, ‘you guys down with streetwear?’” he recalls asking a sales rep inside.

The gutsy move paid off. Fred Segal ended up buying most of the clothes and soon thereafter, buyers from Saks Fifth Avenue came calling, which led to a gig making custom “Love Me” merch for Matchbox 20’s world tour in 2003. “That was done…

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