The Hammer is an art institution that just resonates with a cool aura around it. Maybe it’s because it comes from UCLA or because the building has stripes or because it seems like the only other art establishment near the 405 besides The Getty–who knows! The Hammer stands as a hot spring of neat shows and it only makes sense that their entry into the Pacific Standard Time catalogue is one of the best: Now Dig This!.
The show has been mentioned here several times before, namely in reference to Places of Validation (which has work from many of the same artists), but needs its own time to shine as the doors to this show near a close on January 8th. Now Dig This! takes a look at the “often overlooked legacy of Los Angeles’ African American visual artists,” pulling pieces from across the country to include artits like John Outterbridge, Alonzo Davis, Charles Gaines, Suzanne Jackson, Tyrus Wong, and Charles White (among a long, long list of others). The show not only highlights the group’s work but draws lines to the network of artists and supporters from different ethnic backgrounds who stood in solidarity with the artists.
The time span the show speaks of is from the 1960s through the 1980s, led by the aforementioned group of artists, scholars, and persons involved with getting art exhibited. “The artists that have been included in Now Dig This! represent a vibrant group whose work is critical to a more complete and dynamic understanding of twentieth century American art. Their influence goes beyond their immediate creative circles and their legacy is something we are only now beginning to fully understand,” said Kellie Jones, the curator of the show.
The show carries a theme of family and cooperation, as everyone worked together to make what they were doing both a success and heard outside of their circles, to shift the gaze placed on African Americans in the city. Much like Los Angeles today, the Now Dig This! artists collaborated together (for example, artists Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Noah Purifoy, Raymond Saunders, Ruth G. Waddy, Betye Saar, and Charles White participated in UCLA’s Dickinson Art Center inaugural show, The Negro In American Art) in order to move beyond adversity.
For more on Now Dig This! at the Hammer, check out the Pacific Standard Time blog!
Above: Apparitional Visitations, Suzanne Fitzallen Jackson, 1973. Acrylic wash on canvas. 54 x 72 in. Collection of Vaughn C. Payne, Jr., M.D. Photograph by Ed Glendinning.