Wednesday, June 12, 2024

11 Los Angeles-Area Museum Exhibitions Are Showcasing Works By a Spectrum of Black Artists: Henry Taylor, Helen Cammock, Milford Graves, Kenturah Davis & More


From San Marino to Downtown L.A., Leimert Park and Long Beach, Los Angeles-area museums are showcasing the work of emerging, mid-career, and historic Black artists. Among the expansive offerings are Afro-Atlantic Histories, a survey of five centuries of art; a Njideka Akunyili Crosby show organized by Hilton Als; the first U.S. exhibition of Turner Prize-winner Helen Cammock; and the first L.A. solo museum exhibitions of Henry Taylor, Milford Graves, Kenturah Davis, Clifford Prince King, and Wardell Milan:


Installation view of Gee’s Bend: Shared Legacy” at The Huntington, with Mary Lee Bendolph’s quilt “Image of Formal Presidents” hanging at far left. | Courtesy The Huntington, Photo by Deborah Miller Marr


Gee’s Bend: Shared Legacy @ The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Calif. | Sept. 17, 2022-Sept. 4, 2023

One dozen prints by quilt artists from Gee’s Bend, Ala., are featured in this presentation. The works were recently acquired by The Huntington. The exhibition includes prints by Mary Lee Bendolph, Louisiana Bendolph, Loretta Bennett, and Loretta Pettway, alongside “Image of Formal Presidents” (2009), an original quilt by Mary Lee Bendolph made as an inauguration gift to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.


WARDELL MILAN, “My knees getting weak, and my anger might explode, but if God got us then we gonna be alright,” 2021 (charcoal, graphite, oil pastel, colored pencil, china marker, pastel, cut and pasted paper on hand-dyed paper, 51 x 59 1/2 inches / 129.5 x 151.1 cm). | @ Wardell Milan. Pomona College Collection, Art Acquisitions and Programs Fund. P2022.4.1


Wardell Milan: Recent Work @ Benton Museum of Art, Pomona College, Claremont, Calif. | Oct. 8, 2022-April 2, 2023

Wardell Milan is presenting two projects. His first campus-based billboard project, “5 Indices on a Tortured Body,” is a series of five works inspired by “Fifty-eight Indices on the Body,” a treatise by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (1940-2021). Spread across the grounds of Pomona College, the outdoor installation coincides with a display in the entrance foyer of the Benton Museum of Art where four of the artist’s recent large-scale collage paintings are on view. Among them, “My knees getting weak, and my anger might explode, but if God got us then we gonna be alright” (2021) was acquired by the campus museum in 2022. Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Milan is based in New York.


HENRY TAYLOR, Untitled, 2021 (acrylic on linen, 54 1/8 x 1 1/4 inches / 182.6 x 137.5 x 3.2 cm). | Image and work ©Henry Taylor, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane


Henry Taylor: B Side @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in Downtown Los Angeles, Calif. | Nov. 6, 2022-April 30, 2023

Known for his bluesy approach to figuration, Henry Taylor paints fascinating portraits and candid scenes. A 30-year retrospective, “Henry Taylor: B Side” is the artist’s largest exhibition to date and the first museum survey presented in his hometown of Los Angeles. More than 160 works dating from circa 1985 to 2022 are on view. The selections include paintings of the people in his expansive universe; sketches the artist made of patients when he worked at Camarillo State Mental Hospital (circa 1985-95), shown in a museum for the first time; painted and collaged objects, such as cigarette packs and cereal boxes; and a major new installation of more than three-dozen dress forms and mannequins honoring the memory of the countless Black people murdered by police in recent years.


KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Voyager,” 1992 (acrylic and collage on canvas, painted surface: 220.98 × 220.35 cm /87 × 86 3/4 inches; overall: 233.36 × 219.71 cm /91 7/8 × 86 1/2 inches). | © Kerry James Marshall. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Corcoran Collection (gift of the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art) 2014.79.52


Afro-Atlantic Histories @ Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Miracle Mile/Los Angeles, Calif. | Dec. 11, 2022-Sept. 10, 2023

This landmark exhibition explores the interconnected histories and cultural experiences of Black people of African descent across five centuries, dating from the 17th century to the present. Spanning mediums, continents, and eras, the show features artists from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas whose work speaks to the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and its geographic and human outcomes. Originally organized in Brazil in 2018 with about 450 works presented across two institutions, a scaled down version of the ambitious project is traveling the United States. LACMA is the sole West Coast venue. The next stop is the Dallas Museum of Art in fall 2023.


Installation view of “Alicia Piller: Within” at Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles (Jan. 29-May 7, 2023). | Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber


Alicia Piller: Within @ Craft Contemporary, Miracle Mile/Los Angeles, Calif. | Jan. 29-May 7, 2023

Curated by jill moniz, this exhibition features mixed-media works made over the past five years or so that have been reconfigured anew for this presentation. Los Angeles artist Alicia Piller works with a variety of materials—found objects, resin, latex, xeroxed images, dried plants, and stones—creating immersive and site-specific installations and a “rich and deep form of visual storytelling that bridges time and place, reminding us that internally and externally we are part of fantastical worlds shaped by necessity, emotion, and wisdom.”


CLIFFORD PRINCE KING, “J,” 2020 (24 x 36 inches, Canson Rag 310 GSM). | © Clifford Prince King, Courtesy the artist and STARS Gallery


Clifford Prince King: Yesterday and Beyond @ Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif. | Feb. 7–May 19, 2023

Self-taught photographer Clifford Prince King is presenting his first solo museum exhibition at Kleefeld Contemporary. King explores Black male queer identity through artful compositions featuring his friends and acquaintances in mostly domestic spaces. Connecting his vision to the language of poets Essex Hemphill and Langston Hughes, his tender, intimate, and warmly lit images capture a thoughtful tension between authenticity and fiction. Born in Arizona, King is based in Los Angeles. The show is accompanied by an essay authored by Darnell Moore.


Installation view of KENTURAH DAVIS, planar XV, 2023 (debossed text, carbon pencil on ceramic tile, 50.75 x 174 inches). | © Kenturah Davis


Kenturah Davis: Dark Illumination @ Oxy Arts, Occidental College, Eagle Rock/Los Angeles, Calif. | Feb. 9-April 29, 2023

Kenturah Davis is concluding her residency at Oxy Arts with her first solo institutional exhibition in Los Angeles. Davis’s images blend language and portraiture. Informed by Japanese author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay “In Praise of Shadows,” her new body of work “explores premise that shadows and darkness do not just produce conditions that conceal, but that they can also reveal and illuminate.” An Occidental alum, Davis is based in Los Angeles.


Installation view of “Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul,” Art + Practice, Leimert Park, Los Angeles (Feb. 11-Aug. 5, 2023). | Courtesy Art + Practice, Photo by Charles White


Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul @ Art + Practice, Presented with California African American Museum, Leimert Park/Los Angeles. | Feb. 11-Aug. 5, 2023

British artist Helen Cammock visited New Orleans for the first time in 2022 and drew on the moving experience to create this presentation, which showcases “film, poetry, performance, archival documents, and books rooted in the social history, geography, and community of city.” Cammock was one of four winners of the Turner Prize in 2019. This is her first exhibition in the United States. The show is organized in collaboration with the California African American Museum in Los Angeles and the Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought in New Orleans.

“I Will Keep My Soul is threaded with the story of artist Elizabeth Catlett’s struggle for agency, creative autonomy, and support throughout her 1976 commission for the Louis Armstrong sculpture in New Orleans’s Armstrong Park…”


NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “The Beautyful Ones,” Series #4, 2015 (acrylic, photographic transfers, and colored pencil on paper, 61×42 inches /154.9 x 106.7 cm). © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner


The Hilton Als Series: Njideka Akunyili Crosby @ The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Calif. | Feb. 15-June 12, 2023

Five large collage-based paintings by Nigerian-born, Los Angeles-based Njideka Akunyili Crosby are also on view at The Huntington. The portraits of Nigerian children are part of the artist’s ongoing series The Beautyful Ones. The presentation is the third installment in a series of single artist shows (following Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in 2020 and Celia Paul in 2019) curated by Hilton Als at The Huntington, in collaboration with the Yale Center for British Art.


KARON DAVIS, “Cat’s Cradle,” 2019 (plaster strips, chicken wire, steel armature, glass eyes, antlers. 28 × 25 × 57 inches / 71.1 × 63.5 × 144.8 cm). | © Karon Davis. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Purchased with partial funds from Frieze and individual gifts from Bill Block, Jay Brown, Richard Buckley, Marcy Carsey, Rosette V. Delug, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Viveca Paulin Ferrell, Andrew and Bronya Galef, Linda Janger, Mihail Lari and Scott Murray, Leslie McMorrow, Phil Mercado, Cindy Miscikowski, Susan Nimoy, Michael Rubel and Kristin Rey, and Ellen and Bill Taubman


Karon Davis: Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection @ Hammer Museum, Westwood/Los Angeles, Calif. | Feb. 11-April 9, 2023

Karon Davis makes haunting, plaster cast figurative sculptures that explore race, history, and violence. Her installation of three works commenting on violence in American schools was acquired by the Hammer from “Game,” her outdoor commission for Frieze Projects presented on the Paramount Pictures Studios back lot during Frieze Los Angeles in 2019, the launch edition of the art fair. A co-founder of the Underground Museum, Davis lives and works in Los Angeles.


Installation view of “Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (February 11–May 14, 2023). | Photo by Jeff McLane/ICA


Milford Graves: Fundamental Frequency @ Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in Downtown Los Angeles, Calif. | Feb. 11-May 14, 2023

Accompanied by a series of live events, this expansive exhibition is a retrospective of artist and jazz drummer Milford Graves (1941-2021) who was an “innovative and revolutionary force in radical music making” and many other unique pursuits that contributed to his iconic practice. Graves created his own form of martial arts that drew on the Lindy Hop and African ritual dance. He was also an herbalist, botanist, and professor within what was once called the Black Music Division at Bennington College in Vermont. The exhibition includes photographic and film documentation of his live performances and collaborations with other artists, assemblage sculptures, hand-painted album covers, rarely seen works on paper, embellished percussion instruments, costumes, ephemera, and more. The presentation was originally organized at Artist Space in New York in collaboration with Mark Christman and Ars Nova Workshop. CT


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