From civil rights to celebrity influence: CAAM launches new exhibitions

D'Angelo Florence
Sep 28, 2018 · 3 min read
The “Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963" exhibition covers Martin Luther King’s trip to South Los Angeles when he spoke before thousands at Wrigley Field.

The California African American Museum, on Wednesday, debuted their new exhibitions with their event “Can’t Stop,Won’t Stop!”

The celebration launched new galleries featuring the works of Nina Chanel Abney, in conjunction with the Institute for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, as well as drawings and sculptures by Robert Pruitt. The museum is also showcasing pieces loaned from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art — the new addition to the Exposition Park museum family.

“We’re dealing with a lot of topics, primarily philanthropy, civil rights, as well as celebrity influence and we’re seeing all of those come together and Los Angeles being the intersection of all of them,” Curator Tyree Boyd-Pates said.

One of the new exhibitions, “California Bound: Slavery on the New Frontier, 1848–1865,” explains California’s role in slavery during the periods before and after the Civil War. It features photographs, texts, and other displays.

Because California is so far removed from the southern states of the country, some local residents may not be aware of the state’s involvement in slavery. Boyd-Pates said the museum sets out to inform and educate the public with their new installations.

The museum also visits racial issues with “Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963.” It covers Martin Luther King’s trip to South Los Angeles when he spoke before thousands at Wrigley Field. The white walls are filled with documents, publications, and video of the historical civil rights era in the 1960s. Visitors also hear audio of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches bouncing off the walls throughout the exhibition.

Visitors, like Courtney Starks, have been moved by the different pieces.

“I was like ‘Oh this is what it really is about. It’s not just the oppressed and it’s not just only about other races, it’s about everyone,” Starks said. “And I’m listening to [MLK’s] speech as I’m walking and I’m like ‘Oh, so this is what he really said.’ I feel his emotion and his heart. I’m just like overwhelmed.”

Visitors sit and view the installations at the California African American Museum.

Another exhibition, “The Notion of Family,” has a collection of different sculptures, paintings, and prints that depict African American families between the 19th and 21st centuries. It will be displayed alongside the “Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963” exhibition until early March 2019.

Pruitt’s “Devotion” delves into black identity at the hands of spiritual traditions, fictional narratives and technology. It will be available until mid-February of 2019.

Abney’s “Royal Flush” collection is a set of paintings, watercolors, and collages that approach mainstream media and culture as well as other loaded topics with humor and satire. The museum labels it as a part of both the contemporary and social commentary genres.

Boyd-Pates, the curator, said the new galleries are about more than just black history.

“This is important because there will be a new generation of museum patrons who will come here and not know about this aspect of black history. It’s not just black history, it’s American history, and if we are able to see both sides of the coin, we can be better citizens to our society,” Boyd-Pates said.

Intersections South LA

News and views from South Los Angeles.

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