Compton Art & History Museum Opens

Installation view of "Sons Like Me" with Anthony Lee Pittman's  The Art of Peer Pressure, 2023, and Killer of Sheep, 2022

The Compton Art & History Museum opened last month with "Sons Like Me," a show of paintings by Anthony Lee Pittman. Located in a mini-mall near Compton's Library and City Hall, the museum is the initiative of spouses Abigail Lopez-Bird and Marquell Bird.

Part of its mission is to excavate the history of a globally famous suburb that's gone through many transformations. In 1950 Compton was the all-white hometown of two future Republican Presidents (oil drill bit salesman George H.W. Bush and his 4-year-old son George W.) By 1970 the city was predominantly Black, and in the 1980s it became the epicenter of West Coast hip-hop. Compton's footprint in the visual arts is significant as well. In 1969 Judson Powell established the Communicative Arts Academy with John Outterbridge as artistic director. During its 6-year existence the CAA provided Afro-centric arts instruction ranging from dance to darkroom techniques. One instructor, Elliott Pinkney, painted eight murals for Compton in the 1970s (of which only three survive). A small display of photographs and memorabilia from area universities traces this history. 

Anthony Lee Pittman, Sons Like Me, 2023
Anthony Lee Pittman, Fire & Desire

The art exhibit, "Sons Like Me," takes its title from Essex Hemphill's poem "In the Life." Anthony Lee Pittman's photo-real paintings adopt haloes and saintly iconography to explore the paradoxes of growing up queer and mixed race (Black and Latino) in Compton. 

The "saint" is a portrait of the artist's father, and the pit bulls are family pets that were shot by police.
Anthony Lee Pittman, Killer of Sheep, 2022
Film buffs will recognize a grisaille painting of a girl in a sad dog mask as an homage to Charles Burnett's 1978 film, Killer of Sheep, set in Watts.

The Compton Museum of Art & History is at 306 West Compton Blvd., #104. Admission is free, and it's open Tuesday through Friday, 10 AM to 3 PM. 


Anonymous said…
Pittman's technical skill (if not creative too) is easier to detect than what's apparent in some of the works on display in, for example, the revamped Hammer museum.

The upcoming Lucas museum, nearer to Compton than LACMA is, will be an interesting case study of what type of visual style - creatively and technically - is more of a crowd pleaser and also takes more time to browse through.