Issue 34 November 2023

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Issue 30 November 2022

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Issue 26 November 2021

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Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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The Power of Objects:
On Afro-Atlantic Histories at LACMA

Leer en Español

Kerry James Marshall, Voyager (1992). Acrylic and collage on canvas, 92 × 86.5 inches. © Kerry James Marshall. Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Corcoran Collection (gift of the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art). Image courtesy of the artist and LACMA.

In 1850, on a plantation in South Carolina, Harvard University zoologist Louis Agassiz created nude daguerreotypes of seven enslaved individuals without their consent. He was attempting to gather evidence to prove his racist theory of “polygenesis,” which posited that Black and white people came from separate species.1 In 2010, Tamara Lanier, a descendant of two of the photographed individuals, named Renty and Delia, learned that Harvard University’s Peabody Museum retained the daguerreotypes of her relatives, and in 2019, she initiated a lawsuit against the university for their return to the family line. Lanier held that Harvard should return the daguerreotypes of her ancestors to her because they had been obtained through unclean hands. This wasn’t a farfetched argument because it’s arguable that the images constituted the fruits of robbery. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected Lanier’s claim to the property in 2022 but did allow her to sue the school for negligent and reckless infliction of emotional distress, in large part because of the “horrific” conditions that surrounded the daguerreotypes’ production.2

The outcome of Lanier v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, and the story behind Lanier’s struggle, expose a devastating history often ignored by mainstream society until the racial revolution that began in the 2010s and crested during the protests of 2020. Like Lanier, the curators of LACMA’s remarkable exhibition Afro-Atlantic Histories recognize the importance of imagery and artifacts in telling the story of Black enslavement. Moreover, the show arrives at a time when conversations around these issues are becoming more mainstream, and as activists, artists, and curators respond to this history through aesthetic and political reclamations.

Displaying artworks and objects that address slavery and its influences in Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Europe, Afro-Atlantic Histories spans from the seventeenth century to the present. The exhibition comes to Los Angeles by way of São Paulo, Brazil—the show first appeared in 2018 as Histórias Afro-Atlânticas at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) and the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Dallas Museum of Art; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. At LACMA, it has been adapted to the Resnick Pavilion by curators Rita Gonzalez and José Luis Blondet, who introduced works from their collection, including pieces L.A.-based artists Betye Saar, Maya Stovall, and Todd Gray, to the more than 100 pieces in the original exhibition. “The show is about slavery throughout the Americas, not just in the U.S., as we typically talk about it here, in this country,” Gonzalez told me at the press preview.

The curators divided the show into sections, such as Maps and Margins, which graphs the forced passage of enslaved people from their homes to their bondage. Cartographies reveal sites of embarkation and disembarkation in North and South America (Chesapeake and Bahia) and Africa (Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Gold Coast). In a painting by Kerry James Marshall, Voyager (1992), a woman stands at the prow of a slave ship. Silvery lines limn her onyx features, revealing a high, wide brow and a firmly set mouth. The ship’s name is Wanderer, a reference to the penultimate schooner to bring slaves to the United States, trafficking 409 survivors to Georgia in November 1858. This scene is fraught, but Marshall is not interested in flattening or objectifying his subjects. Fresh insights emerge also from works such as Saar’s I’ll Bend But I Will Not Break (1998). The installation consists of a vintage ironing board, a flat iron attached to a shackle and chain, and a bedsheet embroidered with the initials KKK and hanging on a line with clothespins. On the ironing board, Saar printed a diagram of the Brookes, a notorious eighteenth-century British slave ship. The title gives us access to the mantras of Black women who have resisted oppression throughout the centuries.

Another room hosts work under the category of Enslavement and Emancipation, which exposes the horrors of captivity. Arthur Jafa’s sculpture Ex-Slave Gordon (2017) replicates an infamous 1863 carte-de-visite portrait of an enslaved man. A postcard widely circulated by abolitionists, the image is now known as The Scourged Back. Jafa made his version of gunmetal-colored vacuum-formed plastic, which topographically displays the scars and welts that cascaded down Gordon’s spine, offering an anatomical model of the man’s anguish. Nearby, Nona Faustine’s From Her Body Sprang Their Greatest Wealth (2013) also brings home how U.S. enslavement assailed the physicality and worth of Black people: In the photograph, Faustine stands nude (but for a pair of white shoes) on Wall Street, the stage of the New York City’s first official human market.

The Black American artist Imani Jacqueline Brown has observed that mass media often focuses on the torment of Black people, creating “an overflowing archive of fetishized suffering.”3 Indeed, in different hands, Afro-Atlantic Histories could have grown into a livid spectacle. Avoiding the trap of portraying enslaved people as abject victims, the exhibition’s organizers delve into their and their descendants’ subjectivity, delivering a nuanced picture of individual experiences of subjugation and resistance to it.

Maya Stovall, 1526 (NASDAQ: FAANG), no. 1 (2019). Archives, buttercream neon, and FAANG fonts, 4.25 × 11.75 × 1.25 inches. © Maya Stovall. Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by AHAN: Studio Forum, 2021 Art Here and Now Purchase. Image courtesy of the artist and Reyes | Finn, Detroit. Photo: Clare Gatto.

Several works in the exhibition prompt viewers to do the work of interpretation independently, such as Maya Stovall’s 1526 (NASDAQ: FAANG), no. 1 (2019). This installation quietly displays the number 1526 in pale yellow neon, while the didactic reveals a complex mélange of materials: “archives, buttercream neon, and FAANG fonts.” The numeral refers to the year of the first recorded slave revolt in what became the U.S., and “buttercream neon” points to the triangular trade route, in which sugar was often exchanged for slaves. FAANG is the stock market acronym for NASDAQ big-hitters Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Stovall’s meaning, once it arrives, hits like a brick: Slavery created wealth that still drives values today.

Stovall’s neon is a pivot point in the show. The worldwide epiphany on these issues resounded in 2020, but old white supremacist structures of memory had started to crumble before then. In 1989, U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced House Resolution 40 (H.R. 40), which would set up a commission to study reparation proposals for African Americans. The bill languished despite the fact that Conyers sponsored the Act in each Congress for the following nearly 30 years of his career. But in recent years, a wider swath of people has begun to awaken to the idea of restitution, what Malcolm X once called “payday—retroactive.”4 In 2014, The Atlantic published Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations,” in which he assessed the U.S. as a “regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle.”5 In December 2022, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the sponsor of the current iteration, urged President Biden to pass H.R. 40 via executive order.6

This movement is happening globally, too—in 2007, Guyana called on European nations to pay reparations for slavery. In 2011, Antigua and Barbuda followed suit. Back in the U.S., members of the public also began to demand the recoup of what they’d lost. For example, in the 2010s, many individuals and groups worked to take back their communities by acts of damnatio memoriae, calling for the removal of Confederate monuments to the likes of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart.7 And at the time of publication, L.A.’s own Reparations Advisory Commission (established June 2021) prepares to issue recommendations for addressing disparities affecting the city’s Black residents.8

Afro-Atlantic Histories simultaneously offers a memorial space for community healing, describes the big picture of the Black Atlantic, and takes part in this political moment. Interestingly, when I asked Gonzalez if LACMA had invited L.A.’s Commission members for a viewing, she said the museum had not done so. I felt momentarily disappointed. But then, I wondered about my own political expectations of arts institutions. Does LACMA have an obligation to press for social change directly?

Perhaps they do. Museums, which have long played a historical role in the plunder of people of color’s bodies and cultural products, can owe special moral and legal duties to repair the injustices of the past.9 While Harvard’s Peabody neglected to do right by Lanier, some cultural organizations have made strides in this direction, such as The Brooklyn Museum, which repatriated pre-Hispanic artifacts to Costa Rica in both 2011 and 2020.10 Arts institutions find themselves grappling with a paradigm shift regarding their responsibilities to historically dominated peoples, and, within this moment, the possibility of LACMA serving as a container for active community reparations dialogues is a heady one.

For now, Gonzalez’s and Blondet’s passionate curation has laid the table, and it is up to the public to attend, remember, critique, and consider our next steps. The labor that the artworks require of their audience is not just aesthetic, but political. The show demands that we do the work. In 2019, Tamara Lanier responded to two daguerreotypes in a museum’s collection with legal action. Afro-Atlantic Histories—or any one exhibition for that matter—is clearly not enough to repair the injustice of slavery. Only many continued acts of good faith, the redistribution of wealth, and communal transformation can begin to remedy the outrages so ably documented by the artists represented here. The painful revelations of exhibitions such as this one challenge viewers on both personal and social levels, and thus constitute the first step toward a global reckoning.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 31.

Afro-Atlantic Histories (installation view) (2022–23). Image courtesy of the artists and LACMA. Photo: © Museum Associates/LACMA.

Arthur Jafa, Ex-Slave Gordon (2017). Vacuum-formed plastic, 57 × 44 × 9 inches. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of R.H. Defares. Image courtesy of the artist and LACMA.

  1. Yxta Maya Murray, “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried: Carrie Mae Weems’ Challenge to the Harvard Archive,” Harvard Unbound 8 (2012), 1–78.
  2. Isabella B. Cho and Brandon L. Kingdollar, “Mass. Supreme Court Allows Emotional Distress Claim Against Harvard to Proceed in Suit Over Photos of Enslaved People,” The Harvard Crimson, June 24, 2022, https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2022/6/24/lanier-supreme-court-remanded/.
  3. Imani Jacqueline Brown, “The Remote Sense of Disintegration,” 2020, MPEG video, 5:59, https://imanijacquelinebrown.net/The-Remote-Sensation-of-Disintegration.
  4. Quoted in Murray, “From Here I Saw,” 69.
  5. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/.
  6. Gina Castro, “Reparations Leaders Demand Biden Act on H.R. 40,” Evanston Round Table, December 3, 2022, https://evanstonroundtable.com/2022/12/03/state-federal-reparations-leaders-demand-president-biden-enact-hr-40/.
  7. “Charlottesville takes down Robert E. Lee statue that sparked rally.” BBC, July 10, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57788220/.
  8. Reparations Advisory Commission,” Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department, https://civilandhumanrights.lacity.org/commissions/reparations-advisory-commission/.
  9. See, e.g., the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 25 U.S.C. §3005(a) and §3001(3)(D) (2000).
  10. Isis Davis-Marks, “Brooklyn Museum Returns 1,305 Pre-Hispanic Artifacts to Costa Rica,” Smithsonian Magazine, July 8, 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/brooklyn-museum-returns-more-1300-objects-costa-rica-180978122/.

Yxta Maya Murray lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of ten books.

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