Art In Southern California

Elizabeth A. Watson

In the Fall 2014 issue of IRAAA, Daniel Grant describes the increased demand in the art market for works by African Americans. While the works of modern artists like Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden now command higher prices at auctions, contemporary artists are receiving greater attention in mainstream galleries and museums. Several solo shows in Los Angeles and San Diego through Fall 2015 spotlight black artists. With the exception of Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist at LACMA (Los Angeles County Musuem, now through February 1, 2015) the subjects are contemporary artists.

In addition, a unique art space, Art + Practice (A+P) is being developed by artist Mark Bradford and his partner Allan DiCastro, and art collector/philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles.  

Dancing or Just Sitting Pretty

Jacoby Satterwhite, En Plein Air: Abduction III, 2014, C-print, 84 x 60 x 3

There will undoubtedly be some heavy-hitting installations as well as performances when William Pope L. takes over MOCA’s Geffen Center, March 21- June 26, 2015. Ebony Patterson, II Treez (detail). Photo: Lux Art Institute

Also during the spring, Jamaican portraitist Ebony Patterson (who works at the University of Kentucky) will let visitors see her creative process as she produces a series of dancehall outfits during her residency at Lux Art Institute in Solana Beach/Encinitas, April 6 – May 3, 2015.  

The Season Past

With a shout-out in the New York Times Magazine, Jacolby Satterwhite received a high profile listing for his show, How Lovely Is Me Being Me As I Am, Nov 15 - Dec 31, 2014, at OHWOW Gallery. The new works feature beguiling photographic images, sculptures, and a narrative video. 

Fighting Imagery

Recently premiering in Los Angeles, Thomas Allen Harris’ documentary “Through a Lens Darkly” considers a broad historical swath of photographs of African Americans as comprising “a war of images in the American family album.” The legacy of negative imagery of African Americans informs several contemporary projects.

 Mark Steven Greenfield, The Pushkin Paradox, 2013, acrylic on wood. Photo courtesy the artist & CAMCurrently on view at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, Mark Steven Greenfield’s reworking of minstrel imagery seeks to inform the young ones unfamiliar with the tradition while stripping it of its power. Lookin’ Back in Front of Me: Mark Steven Greenfield 1974-2014 runs through July 5, 2015. Greenfield's oeuvre also includes a range of other subjects including the cosmos.

 A project initiated by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas, The Question Bridge, was composed of an installation of video screens to enact a conversation among black males in the United States. The simple “talking head” format progressed as a metamorphosis of image into voice. While the touring exhibition concluded in San Diego and New York, The Question Bridge continues on-line.

During William Pope L.’s show at the Geffen, March 21- June 26, 2015, MOCA on Grand Avenue will be screening India-born Khalil Joseph’s m. A. A. d. The film features African-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

The Masters 

Jack Whitten, Full Circle: For Amiri Baraka, 2014. Alexander Gray & AssociatesJack Whitten’s career was recognized with a retrospective at the MCASD in La Jolla, September 20, 2014-January 4, 2015. Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting featured the full range of his meditation-provoking abstract paintings. Among the standouts, Full Circle: Amiri Baraka displays his poetic command of illusions of depth and texture that landed his work in the last Venice Biennial.

Noah Purifoy, From the Point of View of the Little People, 1994, Noah Purifoy Foundation, Joshua Tree © Noah Purifoy FoundationAs someone who honed his hand at assemblage, Noah Purifoy (1917-2004) was featured the The Hammer Museum’s Now Dig This! exhibition last year. His work will be on full display next summer at LACMA with the show Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada, June 7 – September 27, 2015.

Art in L.A.'s Leimert Park 

Lakwena McIver, I Remember Paradise mural. Photo: PapillionSculpture paintings inspired by London-based painter Lakwena McIver's recent travel to Uganda, her father's homeland, are on view at Papillion gallery in Leimert Park, January 17, 2015 - March 15, 2015. The show takes its title, I REMEMBER PARADISE, from Lawena's first mural commission (shown here). For a few years during her childhood, McIver lived in Uganda, the paradise now remembered?  

Artist Mark Bradford. Photo: Wikipedia Creative CommonsA unique art space, Art + Practice (A+P), is being developed by artist Mark Bradford and his partner, Allan DiCastro, and art collector/philantropist Eileen Harris Norton in Leimert Park. A+P will offer a combination of contemporary art and social services for foster youth. Nearby is Mark Bradford's art studio, which was formerly a beauty shop owned by his mother, so the Bradford family tradition of beautification and caretaking is continuing in new ways in the community. Opening in February 2015, the A+P center is operated in association with the Hammer Museum and the RightWay Foundation.

In Gridwork show: Charles Gaines, Falling Leaves #5, 1978, color photo, ink on paper, Bank of America Collection. Courtesy Studio Museum in HarlemThe Hammer Museum is providing resources to stage exhibitions at the new center. The first exhibition will present new work by L.A.-based conceptual artist Charles Gaines. This show will be in conjunction with the Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989 exhibition which goes on view at the Hammer Museum on Feb. 7. Among the new pieces at Gaines' A+P show will be a 12-part series that combines a 1911 Manuel de Falla opera with a 1964 speech by Black Panthers activist Stokely Carmichael to express class and race issues.  See this L.A. Times article for more information about the A+P founders and their plans.

Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974–1989, the first museum survey of pioneering Los Angeles conceptualist’s early work will be on view at the Hammer Museum through May 24, 2015. These early Gaines' experiments examined the roles that systems and rule-based procedures play in the construction of forms, objects and meaning. The exhibition was organized by Naomi Keith, curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and opened there last year. 

Elizabeth A. Watson lives in San Diego, CA and writes on art and architecture.