Take in a fascinating mosaic of African American and art history – from the rise of the civil rights movement through the ascension of hip-hop – by visiting exhibits at four L.A. art institutions.
“Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite,” an exhibit on view through Sept. 1 at the Skirball Cultural Center (skirball.org), showcases the work of this New York photographer who pioneered fashion-style photos of black people that reflected their African heritage. While these photos from the early ’60s might not look radical now, there wasn’t anything else like them at the time.
Featuring paintings, sculpture, street photography, murals and other art created by more than 60 prominent African American artists, including Romare Bearden, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Betye Saar and Alma Thomas, is “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” This exhibit at the Broad (thebroad.org) through Sept. 1. examines the relationship between political activism and artmaking for black artists from the early ’60s into the ’80s. Family weekend workshops inspired by this exhibit take place at 11 a.m. June 8-9.
After former NFL lineman Ernie Barnes became a painter, his best-known work, “The Sugar Shack,” appeared in the opening credits of the hit 1970s sitcom “Good Times” and as the cover art for Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You.” The California African American Museum (caamuseum.org) exhibit “Ernie Barnes: A Retrospective,” open through Sept. 8, reveals Barnes’ distinctive fluid, observational style.
At the Annenberg Space For Photography (annenbergphotospace.org), “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop” uses photography, video, memorabilia and music to chart hip-hop’s rise from a New York musical movement of the 1980s to a global cultural phenomenon. Photo contact sheets on display show subjects in multiple ways and offer a look at the artistic process of selecting photos. The exhibit, open through Aug. 18, includes an activity book geared for children.