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Anyone walking down West Broadway on a warm spring afternoon would have to notice the black leather jacket and tousled blonde hair of the artist selling paintings and holding court on the corner of Prince Street. L.A. Willette was a fixture on New York's downtown art scene. His passionate self-expression decorated NYC's art galleries, restaurants, clubs, and store windows for over thirty years.

L.A. Willette died Sunday morning, November 13th of cancer. He fell ill only months earlier, having delayed a visit to the doctor.

Mr. Willette was a second-generation abstract expressionist who specialized in explosive, thickly-painted nudes, abstracts and cityscapes, blazing with color and motion. Elaine de Kooning said about Mr. Willette, during a visit to his studio, "If Bill [de Kooning] was still painting women, he'd be doing what you're doing". Over the years, Willette had mastered collage and other techniques, pouring his energy nonstop into an evolving body of artworks, writing, and photography.

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It is with deep regret that Art @ Large informs you of the passing of one of our own. L.A. Willette died Sunday morning, November 13th at Beth Israel Hospital due to complications from cancer. He was 53.

Tammey & I first met L.A. Willette around 1997 on the corner of West Broadway and Prince Street in SoHo, New York City. I liked him immediately. His rude comments on the art world, and his flair for salesmanship of his art just made me feel I've found someone with even more art-angst than myself. That corner, in the heart of where the street artists sell their work was his corner. A fixture for the last 25 years or more. He would always show up in the very late afternoon, while his friend Jill Stasium had set up his booth in the morning.

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Lawrence Willette, painter, died in New York City on Nov. 13, after a short struggle against intestinal cancer. He was 53 years old.

Many will remember Lawrence as the artist who displayed his paintings on the southwest corner of W. Broadway and Prince St. in Soho for well over a decade. His paintings were bold, graphic, colorful, brilliant and potent. At times they were also confrontational and rude. The same could be said about the artist.

Not many people know that Lawrence was half African-American. He certainly did not appear to be. His long blond hair and light complexion did not give a hint of his ethnicity. He rarely mentioned it, but the fact is, that it became a problem for him as a youngster. He told me that he took a lot of grief from those who thought he looked “too white,” and so he became defensive and overcompensated to the point of being abrasive.

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Googling Larry Willette (Lawrence A. Willette, aka L.A. Willette) tonight I found out from the Gallery at Large site that he died last November, 2005. The following is my email, sent just now to the Gallery at Large owners:

Dear Pet Silvia and Tammey Stubbs,
On a whim tonight I decided to Google if Larry had a website of his own yet and what a shock to read about Larry's death on your website. I had no idea he was ill.

What a beautiful tribute you gave him, thank you so much. It was very moving what you wrote, to the point, caring, very New York and fun; Larry would have loved it.

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From my LiveJournal, written by me about an hour or two ago:

"...And I am worried. My friend in NYC is missing. He is a painter. He sells paintings in SoHo in front of the Swatch store on West Broadway. His name is Lawrence. I haven't been able to get a hold of him, all his phone numbers are disconnected now. I even tried emailing him, he hasn't gotten in touch with me. With the winter and only being able to sell on the street I fear he may have lost the roof over his head. If any of you girls in NYC go to SoHo and someone's willing to check on him for me on the weekend (because you are going there anyways), please see if he's out there selling and ask him if everything is ok... I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise I think I might have to get on a plane soon, because I haven't been able to get a hold of him for months and this is not normal...."

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More Articles...

  1. Selling Art Work in SoHo
  2. Friends of L.A.Willette
  3. Artist In Passing
  4. Gerson’s next move

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Shows & Events Location, Prices, etc...
  • 10 Jan 1977
    Painted Women 12:00 AM to 12:00 AM

    L.A. Willette @ Westbeth Painters Space

  • 09 Nov 1978
    Waiting for the Dough 12:00 AM to 12:00 AM

    A new play by Lawrence Willette. Thurs thru Sat at 11 p.m. 11/9-25 (no perf on Thanksgiving). $3 (691-2272).

  • 05 Sep 1979
    Destined Arts Inc. 12:00 AM to 12:00 AM

    Westbeth Painter's Gallery presents New Paintings & Drawings L.A. Willette P. Micheal Laura Rudin Phil Cody September 5 - October 5, 1979 Opening at 9.00 p.m.

  • 10 Jan - 06 Oct
  • 25 Jul - 23 Nov
  • 01 Feb - 03 May
  • 14 Jul - 23 Jul