Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980, is a comprehensive exhibition that chronicles the vital legacy of the African American artistic community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work, connections, and friendships with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California.
Now Dig This! is organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and was presented there in 2011-12 as part of Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of more than sixty cultural
institutions across Southern California.
The exhibition presents 140 works by thirty-three artists active during this historical period, exploring the rising strength of the black community in Los Angeles as well as the increasing
political, social, and economic power of African Americans across the nation. Several prominent artists began their careers in the Los Angeles area, including Melvin Edwards, David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, and Betye Saar. Their influence, like that of all the artists in the exhibition, goes beyond their immediate creative circles and the geography of Los Angeles and is critical to a more complete and dynamic understanding of twentieth-century American art.
Now Dig This! demonstrates how these artists were not working in isolation but were instead integral to the developing U.S. art scene during the latter part of the twentieth century. During this important era of artistic and cultural ferment, artists shifted from more traditional formats, such as painting and works on paper, to modes such as assemblage, Finish Fetish (a West Coast movement parallel to Minimal Art on the East Coast), Postminimal Art, Conceptual Art, and performance.
Presented in MoMA PS1’s First Floor Main galleries, Now Dig This! looks at the period through several framing categories. For example, lacking representation in mainstream institutions, African American artists opened their own venues in the 1960s and 70s. Spaces such as Gallery 32, founded by painter Suzanne Jackson, and the Brockman Gallery — established by brothers Dale and Alonzo Davis, became sites for cutting-edge work and havens for discussions,poetry readings, and fund-raisers for social causes. Samella Lewis is an amazing one-woman institution, having opened several galleries and a museum, started a magazine, and published some of the earliest books on this cohort of artists.
Sister Karen Boccalero, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Marie Johnson Calloway, George Clack,Dan Concholar, Houston Conwill, Jayne Cortez, Alonzo Davis, Dale Brockman Davis, Melvin Edwards, Fred Eversley, Charles Gaines, David Hammons, Maren Hassinger, Suzanne Jackson, Virginia Jaramillo, Ulysses Jenkins, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Elizabeth Leigh-Taylor, Samella Lewis, Ron Miyashiro, Senga Nengudi, John Outterbridge, William Pajaud, Noah Purifoy, John T. Riddle, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, Mark di Suvero, Ruth Waddy, Charles White, Tyrus Wong, and Andrew Zermeńo.
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Website