Monday, January 24, 2011

First trip to the California African American Museum

Saturday was my first trip over to the California African American Museum, where there was a reception for the exhibit Allensworth.  This exhibit found its way to the galleries after an artist excursion to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, originally the first all black settlement/town in California.  The prints from the collectiveof photographers in the exhibit are all reproduced by Mel Carll from the SCV Center for Photography.  It's a large body of work, documenting the faded glory of a utopia or commune of the past, with many subjects explored by different artists.  The exciting thing for Santa Clarita and the SCV Center for Photography is that there is talk of this show traveling.
The California African American Museum is extremely large, with many galleries.  Also on display were two exhibits that flowed into each other, Camera and Community and Daufuskie Island. I had a big interest  in the Daufuskie Island photo exhibit since Pat Conroy's book,  The Water is Wide is one of my favorite books and was set on Daufuskie, fictionalized as "Yamacraw Island." It's of interest as well to see documentation of a life that no longer exists and thinking of the gullah dialect, so well preserved there for so many years now quickly being lost since most of the living there is gone.  The pictures are of an era gone. Now the remains is golf courses and an end to the oyster fishing.
With Camera and Community, there were many political pictures of aftermaths from riots (Watts) and the documentation of Caesar Chavez's hunger strike and work.  What was of interest to me were the pictures of musicians many performing while in SoCal but also performing all over the U.S.  The two pictures I took the time to jot down information on were funny.  One was a work title Parade from 1940, with three dads holding kids on their shoulders and we get of glimpse of a great little baby butt crack-somethings never change!  Also of interest was an undated work of Harry Adams the was of a dance class with 13 little girls lined up at the barre.  This photo took some time to study as it was difficult to count the number of girls with their teacher and it was surprising to see only three girls with shoes on.  Granted this looks to be from the 60s and the class is all black, but as a child taking class, we all were required to have proper attire and it amazed me to look at this class, learning with what they had.
Lastly, How We Roll, was an interesting curation of African Americans in the sport of surfing, skateboarding, and roller skating.  Lots of info and lots of displays, it made me sad to see a 16mm film camera in a display case, but there were some longboards on the wall that were so beautiful and crafted with different wood, they were a work of art on a wall and it would be of interest to see them out on the asphalt jungle so to speak.
Overall this was an amazing museum with a variety of galleries that showed many different aspects of the mission of the museum.  The foyer was so large and had high ceilings and plenty of wall space to feature artists inspired by the exhibits and they took advantage of it, with large possibly 2 story high art collections hung on the walls.  It was so much to take in, at one point my friend and I couldn't believe we had missed part of the art in that space, but we were so focused on another that we just missed it.  Take a trip out and discover this gem--First Sundays of the month are free to the public, but since it shares parking with the coliseum, know your game days and avoid them! _______________________ _________________________________

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