Themes

Frontrunners

Los Angeles began to come into its own as a cultural capital with strong gallery activity and art patronage in the late 1950s. By the early 1960s the city had become a major center for art and culture. The careers of white California-based artists Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, John Baldessari, and Robert Irwin blossomed in that decade. The Dwan Gallery and the Ferus Gallery thrived. Artforum, the landmark art publication begun in San Francisco in 1962, moved to Los Angeles in 1965 for two years before heading to New York. During this time, the dedication of black artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Melvin Edwards, William Pajaud, and Samella Lewis helped thrust Los Angeles into the forefront of the national arts scene. These artists constituted a central group whose artworks and activism led to changes in the reception of black artists and influenced a subsequent generation. They pushed for recognition, showing initially in unconventional spaces such as homes and private clubs and eventually gaining greater exposure in more conventional galleries, university settings, and museums.

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"Frontrunners." Now Dig This! Art in Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980 Digital Archive. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2016. https://hammer.ucla.edu/now-dig-this/art/themes/frontrunners.