“Identity and Affirmation: Postwar African-American Photography,” an exhibition of 125 images produced by Los Angeles African-American photographers during the postwar years from 1945 to 1980, will be on view at the California State University, Northridge Art Galleries from Oct. 23 through Dec. 10, 2011. Admission to the exhibition is free.
Drawn from nearly 850,000 images that comprise the archives of the Institute for Arts and Media at Cal State Northridge, the nation’s largest collection of work by African-American photographers, the exhibition offers insight into the era, documenting the struggle for equal rights and celebrating the many contributions to cultural and civic life made by African Americans. The exhibition also explores the development of African-American identity in Los Angeles.
The exhibition presents images by 12 photographers, including Harry Adams, Roland Charles, Guy Crowder, Jack Davis, Bob Douglas, Maxie Floyd, Alex Green, Calvin Hicks, James Jeffrey, Dan Martin, Willie Middlebrook and Charles Williams. Most of the photographers worked for news services and the black press—such as the California Eagle, Los Angeles Sentinel, Jet and Ebony—chronicling politicians, important events and celebrities in a photojournalistic style. Works by other featured photographers reflect the broader aesthetic dimensions of the medium. The photographs, many of which have never before been exhibited, will be supplemented by 250 images projected on to video screens.
The exhibition is presented in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980, a collaboration of more than 60 cultural institutions across Southern California coming together for the first time to celebrate the birth of the L.A. art scene.
“The exhibition is one of the few in Pacific Standard Time that explores African American life of the postwar period,” said exhibition curator Kent Kirkton, head of CSUN’s Institute for Arts and Media and a Cal State Northridge journalism. “This generation was the first to explore the possibility of photography for the black press and the black community in Los Angeles. It is their work that contemporary photographers have built from. They laid that groundwork for much that has come since.
“Many of the photographs in this exhibition document the struggles and gains of the civil rights movement in Los Angeles,” he said. “The photographers were witness to the people and events that brought about important changes. They were also witness to a community whose sense of self was changing and which celebrated the achievements of its citizens. They documented the social organizations, the balls, banquets and celebrities as well as the dramatic—the marches, demonstrations, speeches and shootouts.”
The photographs on view highlight local and national civil rights leaders, including Judge Loren Miller, H.C. Hudson, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Roy Wilkins, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Stokely Carmichael; politicians, including Tom Bradley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Kenneth Hahn, Pat Brown, Augustus Hawkins, Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke, Gilbert Lindsay, and Jack, Bobby, and Edward Kennedy; and a range of celebrities, athletes, and cultural figures, including Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Ray Charles, Nat “King” Cole, Mickey Champion, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Jackson Five, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sugar Ray Robinson, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn.
“Identity and Affirmation” opens Sunday, Oct. 23, with a celebratory reception from 2 to 5 p.m. A related program, “The Miles Davis Group Experience: 1949–1959, A Collaboration with Blue Note Records, featuring the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet,” will be presented that evening at 6:30 p.m. at Cal State Northridge’s Valley Performing Arts Center as part of its jazz/world music series. A gallery talk about the exhibition is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, in the Art Galleries.
An exhibition catalog will be available for purchase at the CSUN Art Galleries. Regular main gallery hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, call the Art Galleries at (818) 677-2156 or visit http://www.csun.edu/artgalleries/index.html. The Art Galleries, located in the Art and Design Center, are at the northern end of the campus off Halsted Street.
Pacific Standard Time is an unprecedented collaboration of more than 60 cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Initiated through grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time will take place for six months beginning October 2011. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.
The mission of the Institute for Arts and Media is to collect, preserve and disseminate the visual history of the region with an emphasis on ethnic minority communities and photographers. The institute also promotes research, serves as a center for the exchange of ideas about the area’s visual history and contributes to the region’s educational efforts through exhibitions, programs and its digital archives. The institute is home to more than one million images, including 850,000 by African American photographers, making it one of the largest such collections in the United States.