"Black American Portraits" at LACMA
|Barkley L. Hendricks, Photo Bloke, 2016. Anonymous collection, Los Angeles|
LACMA has just opened a blockbuster of an exhibition, but it may not be the one you're thinking. The Obamas' portraits are drawing the crowds. Yet you'll spend far more quality time in the unruly accompanying show, "Black American Portraits." It is billed as 200 years of African-American portraits in all media, largely drawn from LACMA's permanent collection.
OK… If you know anything about the museum, you're probably aware that it doesn't have many portraits of Black people. Evidently, a lot has changed in the past few years. About half the works are recent purchases, gifts, or promised gifts. They are joined by some spectacular loans (such as the Barkley L. Hendricks above). There are big, full-figure paintings by Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley that (IMHO) are better than the Obama portraits. The selection spans Renee Cox, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Karon Davis, Roy DeCarava, Emory Douglas, Sam Doyle, Genevieve Gaignard, Charles Gaines, Todd Gray, Titus Kaphar, Jordan Kasteel, Lezley Saar, Lorna Simpson, Henry Taylor, Mickalene Thomas, Tourmaline, and Fulton Leroy Washington (Mr. Wash).
|Unknown artist, Portrait of a Sailor (Paul Cuffe?), about 1800. LACMA|
|Kerry James Marshall, A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self, 1980|
Be sure to check out the Obamas, but the marquee attraction here is "Black American Portraits."
|James Van Der Zee, Self Portrait in a Boater Hat, about 1925. LACMA|
|Eldzier Cortor, The Couple, about 1949. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York|
|Alice Neel, Horace Clayton, 1949. Promised gift of Mark Gordon Family Collection|
|Catherine Opie, Kamala Harris, 2016. LACMA, gift of the artist|
|Anthony Barboza, Amiri Baraka, 1976. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution|
|Sam Doyle, Jake, Our Best, 1978-1983. Promised Gift of Gordon W. Bailey|
|Elizabeth Columba, Biddy Mason, 2006. Collection of Maddie McFadden-Lawson and Ambassador Michael A Lawson (ret.)|
|Amy Sherald, An Ocean Away, 2020. Promised gift of Willow Bay and Bob Iger|
|Kehinde Wiley, Yachinboaz Ben Yisrael II, 2021. Promised gift of Rich Paul|
|Jordan Casteel, Jordan, 2020. LACMA, gift of Andrew Xue|
|Titus Kaphar, Behind the Myth of Benevolence, 2014. Collection of Jimmy Iovine and Liberty Ross|
|Reggie Burrows Hodges, Swimming in Compton: Auntie B., 2019. LACMA, gift of Laura and Stafford Broumand|
|Fulton Leroy Washington (Mr. Wash), Shattered Dreams, 2020. LACMA, purchased with funds provided by Aubrey Drake Graham|