South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s
Kellie Jones, a 2016 recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant," is Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia University and the author of several books, including EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art, also published by Duke University Press. Jones has curated numerous national and international exhibitions, including Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980 and Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.
Claim: Assemblage and Self-Possession
Chapter 2 traces the practices of installation and assemblage by John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, and Betye Saar. They all shared the aesthetics of reuse in their sculptural concatenations. Purifoy and Outterbridge embedded their artmaking in community engagement and urban public space. In the wake of the Watts Rebellion (1965), Purifoy began creating art from the detritus of the aftermath, highlighting the efficacy of the black activist object. Outterbridge felt that his role as a cultural worker (running Watts Towers Art Center and the Compton Communicative Arts Academy) was in many ways as important as creating discrete objects. His own sculpture paid homage to vernacular making. Saar’s assemblage practice was more intimate and centered on spirituality. Through her we can trace the intersection of African American and feminist art networks in Los Angeles.