In a workroom in Cal State Northridge’s Art and Design Center, photojournalism professor Kent Kirkton is going through dozens upon dozens of photographs, searching for just the right ones that tell the story of African-American photographers during post-war Southern California.
Among the works he’s singled out are photographs by Bob Douglas, Roland Charles, Guy Crowder, Jack Davis, Calvin Hicks, Maxie Floyd, Charles Williams and James Jeffery. They include pictures of politicians, celebrities and every day Los Angelenos going about their lives.
“This generation was the first to explore the possibility of photography for the black press and the black community in Los Angeles,” said Kirkton, head of Cal State Northridge’s Institute of Arts and Media. “It is their work that contemporary photographers have built from. They laid the groundwork for much that has come since.”
The Getty Foundation has awarded the institute $80,000 to cull through it’s rich collection of photographs by African American photographers and create an exhibit as part of a region-wide initiative the J. Paul Getty Trust is presenting next fall, “Pacific Standard Times: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.”
The first project of its kind, Pacific Standard Time has begun the countdown to its October 2011 opening when more than 60 cultural institutions throughout Southern California will come together to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a new force in the art world. This collaboration, the largest ever undertaken by cultural institutions in the region, will continue through April 2012. It has been initiated through grants totaling $10 million from the Getty Foundation.
“As we start marking the days toward the opening, the excitement about Pacific Standard Time continues to grow, and so does the project itself,” said Deborah Marrow, interim president and CEO of the Getty Trust. “What began as an effort to document the milestones in this region’s artistic history has expanded until it is now becoming a great creative landmark in itself. In fact, the story of Pacific Standard Times is so big, it needs this region-wide collaboration to tell it.”
Galleries, museums, theater companies and educational institutions of every size and character are taking part. In addition to Cal State Northridge’s Institute for Arts and Media, these institutions include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum and the Getty Museum as well as the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Japanese American National Museum, and the Watts Towers Arts Center.
Kirkton said Cal State Northridge’s part in an initiative, “Identity and Affirmation: African-American Post War Photography,” will include exhibitions in each of its galleries, including its main Art Galleries and the new gallery in the soon-to-be-opened Valley Performing Arts Center. Kirkton added that the Valley Performing Arts Center also was planning a special concert to coincide with the show.
“The exhibit explores this notion of identity and affirmation for African American photographers in the period following World War II,” Kirkton said. “Many of these men, and most of them were men, were fighting the war on two fronts. You had a lot of veterans returning energized and looking forward to full citizenship. And at the same time, you have the burgeoning of creative activity in the black community in Los Angeles. Those photographers documented that life.”
CSUN’s Institute for Arts and Media strives to preserve Southern California’s visual history. It contains a vast collection of photographic images, including those of the United Farm Workers, César Chavez and Dolores Huerta and African-American leaders, entertainers and musicians such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Maurice Dawkins, the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Jackie Robinson and Jessie Jackson. A large portion of the collection includes photojournalism capturing images of city council activities, political campaigns including those of Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower, protests, social clubs, cityscapes, celebrities, NAACP, the Black Panthers, Peace Corps, Latin America and local school events.
The mission of the Institute for Arts and Media is to collect, preserve and disseminate the visual history of the region. The institute also promotes research, serves as a curator for the exchange of ideas about the area’s visual history and contributes to the region’s educational efforts through its exhibitions, programs and digital archives.
For more information about CSUN’s Institute for Arts and Media, visit its website at http://csunartsandmedia.org/.
For more information about the Pacific Standard Time initiative, visit its website at http://pacificstandardtime.org/.