LOS ANGELES, CA.-
Tilton Gallery announces that John Outterbridge will have a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum's Art + Practice space
in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Curated by Hammer senior curator Anne Ellegood with assistant curator Jamillah James, John Outterbridge: Rag Man is on view December 12, 2015-February 27, 2016.
In the more than fifty years since he moved to Los Angeles, Outterbridge has been a prominent figure within the local art scene, leaving his mark from Pasadena to Leimert Park to Watts as an artist, an educator, and an activist. His artwork has been shaped by his childhood in a culturally rich community in the American south steeped in vernacular forms of creativity and characterized by a strong ethos of saving and recycling, as well as by historical events such as the migration of African Americans from south to north in the first half of the twentieth century and the Watts uprising of 1965.
"It is a true honor to have the opportunity to work with John, who is such an important figure in the history of contemporary art in Los Angeles. While he is highly respected among his community, his work is not as widely known to the residents of Los Angeles as it should be. His work of the past decade is just as compelling, beautifully crafted, and conceptually resonant as his work of the 1970s. Not only is John a great artist, he is an exceptional human being. I know he is looking forward to having his work shown again in the context of Leimert Park, after showing with Brockman Gallery many years ago," said curator Anne Ellegood.
Outterbridge's sculptures are composed from found and discarded materials and debris, including rags, rubber, and scrap metal. As much as Outterbridge's works are rooted in folk and African art, they also engage in dialogue with developments in twentieth-century art such as Dada, assemblage, and the readymade. A peer of artists such as Alonzo and Dale Davis (who founded Brockman Gallery in 1967), Melvin Edwards, Noah Purifoy, and Betye Saar, Outterbridge is identified with the California assemblage movement, which emerged in the 1950s with the work of artists like George Herms and Edward Kienholz and is considered one of the most vital artistic developments on the West Coast during this period.
The majority of the works in the exhibition are small wall-mounted constructions made since 2002. These pieces have a talismanic quality, containing not only the metal tool parts and carved wood found in many of his earlier works but also symbolically loaded materials such as human hair and the asafetida bags traditionally worn on the body to ward off disease. The most recent works, the colorful Rag and Bag Idiom series (2012), feature Outterbridge's characteristic found textiles painted an array of vibrant colors. The inclusion of a few early works from the 1970s make evident the way that certain materials, forms, and motifs-such as the American flag, rags, bags, and the human figure-have reoccurred throughout Outterbridge's career. Not only has Outterbridge made important and compelling contributions to the history of contemporary art in Los Angeles-influencing a number of younger artists in the process-but he has also been a vital and steadfast part of the community. A committed educator and social activist, Outterbridge cofounded the Communicative Arts Academy in Compton and was director of the Watts Towers Art Center from 1975-1992.
John Outterbridge was born in Greenville, North Carolina in 1933. He studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago in the 1950s and moved to Los Angeles in 1963. In 1994 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Otis College of Art and Design. He co-founded the Communicative Arts Academy in Compton where he was artistic director from 1969 to 1975 and was director of the Watts Towers Art Center from 1975 to 1992. Outterbridge's work has been included in several recent group shows, such as When Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American Self at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2014); the Venice Biennale, The Encyclopedic Palace (2013); and Blues for Smoke at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (2013) that traveled to the Whitney Museum, New York and Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio. His work was featured in six exhibitions in the citywide initiative Pacific Standard Time in 2011-2012, including the Hammer's Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980. Earlier exhibitions include: Los Angeles 1955-1985: Birth of an Art Capital at the Centre Pompidou (2006); Sao Paolo Biennale (1994); INSITE 94 on the border of San Diego and Tijuana (1994); and 40 Years of California Assemblage at the UCLA Wight Art Gallery (1989). A survey of his work was held in 1993 at the African American Museum in Los Angeles and he had a solo exhibition at LAXART in 2011. In the 1970s and 80s, he showed with Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park and is now represented by Tilton Gallery, New York where he most recently showed in 2012. In 2013 he was awarded the Governors' Award for Outstanding Service to Artists by the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and in 2012 he received the California African American Museum Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received a United States Artists Fellowship in 2011.