Denae Howard, Fate Sisters, 2018. Photo courtesy of Naima Noguera, from the 2018 inaugural show at Dominique Gallery.
While most museums and art galleries remain closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic, over the past several months, many of them have pivoted online, hosting digital exhibitions, Zoom openings, and live meditations and workshops. The reality is that smaller independent and private spaces—much like restaurants and stores—cannot survive without us. Still, these treasured institutions continue to serve their communities as best they can, proving that art transcends physical gallery space and white walls.
If you live in Los Angeles, you may know the Underground Museum, which was founded in 2012 and has since become one of LA’s most vital cultural centers for Black art. The Underground is currently closed to visitors, but here we’ve highlighted other Black-owned and operated art spaces, museums, and galleries in LA to support now. Many of them are multihyphenate cultural institutions creating new systems in the art world—whether it’s through artist representation or how their founders connect with their neighbors. This is not an exhaustive list—feel free to email us at [email protected] if you have an art space you’d like to see in this guide.
Art + Practice
The Art + Practice campus sits on nearly 20,000 square feet in South Los Angeles’s Leimert Park and functions as a gallery, a public programming space, and a community center that supports local foster youth. When artist Mark Bradford, philanthropist and art collector Eileen Harris Norton, and activist Allan DiCastro came together in 2014, they noted that at the time, it was rare to find art spaces or museums that had a strong social mission. Their goal was to be of service to the community, while also dedicating their platform to drawing awareness to foster youth in the transitional ages of eighteen to twenty-four in South LA. Together with the nonprofit First Place for Youth, A + P provides housing services and education and employment opportunities for youth who are transitioning out of the foster care system. It’s also a space to celebrate contemporary art and artists of color in a setting that’s accessible to everyone, especially the community and artists that it serves. Currently, A + P is closed to the public, but the center has been digitally forward since its opening in 2015, with a robust digital events calendar and virtual educational tours and materials available to educators and school groups. This year, the theme at A + P is documentation, and it has partnered with the California African American Museum on a four-part series focused on helping artists build sustainable practices through text and publishing. The exhibition, Collective Constellation: Selections from The Eileen Harris Norton Collection, was co-organized by the Hammer Museum and is online now for 3D viewing.
The Crenshaw Dairy Mart
Cofounders Patrisse Cullors, Noé Olivas, and Alexandre Dorriz were in art school when they signed the lease for the Crenshaw Dairy Mart in Inglewood in 2018. They would spend two years incubating the idea and getting to know their neighbors and the needs of the community before opening the doors for their inaugural exhibition in February 2020. Two weeks later, the country went into lockdown. What the three founders had in mind for the space was that it would be part artist collective and part gallery, a place guided by eight principles rooted in “ancestry, abolition, and healing” that also serves as a cultural network for the community of Inglewood. Their first exhibition focused on Measure R, a ballot measure that Cullors—also a cofounder of Black Lives Matter—worked on with multiple groups across the country to push for alternatives to incarceration. When the pandemic hit, they shut down the gallery, but Cullors, Olivas, and Dorriz immediately set up the Care Not Cages relief fund for incarcerated artists who are among those disproportionately affected by the outbreak. They also partnered with artist Lauren Halsey to distribute art-supply kits alongside produce boxes in South LA and Watts through Halsey’s Summaeverythang community program. This work—whether it’s paying for the artwork of incarcerated artists or providing a place for education, liberation, and activism—has been the product of listening and looking at the history of their community, explain the founders. Their practice is deeply committed to repatriating, so any resources that come into the Crenshaw Dairy Mart go back into other organizations in Inglewood, and every opportunity is equitable. To see the works of the six currently incarcerated artists from the Care Not Cages program, visit the online exhibition at Gallery Platform LA.
Band of Vices
West Adams is a sprawling neighborhood in South LA that, in the past few years, has become known for its independent galleries and private artists’ studios that dot one of the oldest districts in Los Angeles. Band of Vices was founded in 2015 by actor and art curator Terrell Tilford, who is no stranger to the art world, having opened his first gallery, the Tilford Art Group, back in 1999 in New York, before relocating it to Mid-City, Los Angeles, in 2003. In 2010, Tilford took a step back. He was burned out. But five years later, he refined his vision and reopened the gallery, this time taking his name off the marquee and moving to Downtown Los Angeles before ultimately settling in West Adams, where he was born and raised. Since then, the contemporary gallery has hosted both rising and recognized artists with a mission of disrupting the model, including painter Grace Lynne Haynes, drawing artist Shantell Martin, and photographer Ali LeRoi. For a digital catalog of the gallery’s most recent exhibition, Masterpiece, featuring eighteen artists, email [email protected]
California African American Museum
Across from the University of Southern California off the Metro Expo Line is the California African American Museum, the first state-supported museum for African American history, art, and culture in California and across the American West. CAAM, which was founded in 1977 and opened in 1981, is home to five galleries, a research library, and a sculpture court. As one of LA’s most important hubs for learning about and preserving the richness of African American history, the museum is an excellent place for kids as well as historians and scholars (more than 6,000 books and research materials are available for public browsing). Though CAAM is temporarily closed, recent exhibitions have focused on cultivating a younger generation of visitors with the showing of contemporary artists, including Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, whose work examines her own genetic data and personal history of being a woman of Afro–Puerto Rican and Jewish descent.
Dominique Clayton was eight months pregnant with her third child when she opened her gallery in West Adams, but it didn’t exactly take off, she says. That was back in 2015. Clayton is an arts manager (her current position is with the Broad), a curator, and a writer, and she wanted to create a space that was as much for the artists as it was for the public. This next iteration, located in a storefront on a wide stretch of West Adams Boulevard, is both a gallery and an arts incubator for emerging BIPOC and female artists. Clayton maintains a small artist roster and places an emphasis on the gallery’s digital presence. When we chatted with her in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, she didn’t skip a beat when she said she was busy prepping for her next show, a rotating online exhibition exclusively on Artsy featuring six artists (Khidr Joseph and Kelsey Arrington are two of our favorites in the show, titled Spotlight), which runs from July 24 to October 15. In December, Clayton will be participating in the Prizm Art Fair, the only Black-owned art fair taking place during Miami Art Week. Recently, Clayton also participated in an online art auction to support Black Voters Matter, a voter mobilization initiative. To support, follow the gallery on Instagram and shop for prints on the website.
Since 1990, cofounders Carine Fabius and Pascal Giacomini have been running a private gallery out of their beautiful Craftsman home in Hollywood. In the last thirty years, a lot has changed about the art scene in LA, but Galerie Lakaye remains as conceived: a space to celebrate and showcase Haitian, Cuban, and contemporary ethnic art. Fabius, who was born in Port-au-Prince, came to the US when she was eight years old and runs the space along with her partner, Giacomini, a French American sculptor and artist. Among their impressive collection are Haitian vodou flags, traditional beaded and sequined flags used to decorate ceremonial sites and for dancing (it’s said that the shimmering of the flag attracts good spirits). Next on exhibit is local LA Haitian American artist Francesca Lalanne, whose work—some welded onto metal sheets—is influenced by architecture and explores dualities of the human condition. It opens at the end of September by appointment only.
Nous Tous, which means “all of us” in French, is an artist-run store and community space in Chinatown founded in 2016 by designer Teresa Hu and dancer and performance artist Maceo Paisley in 2016. Paisley is the founding director and president of the Citizens of Culture, a nonprofit that supports Nous Tous through arts programming and community-building workshops and operates out of the small Chinatown gallery. In the last four years, Nous Tous has featured hundreds of artists and events, from art classes to performances to support groups and workshops. Though the space is physically closed, the gallery has been hosting community gatherings on Zoom, including a four-week grief practice (sign up here), discussions on creativity during the pandemic, self-care zine-making workshops, and weekly check-ins simply for people to listen and be heard. Shop for art prints and merch at the online store here.
Lifelong Inglewood resident Rick Garzon founded Residency Art Gallery in 2016 after finding, as an art collector, that many galleries weren’t catering to communities of color. At Residency, Garzon cultivates an inclusive space where the multicultural community can come together to see art, have talks, and make space for organizing and activism. It’s a place where artists can exhibit work for the very people that the work is centered on and a place where those communities are celebrated which each opening, artist talk, and panel discussion. Residency is now open with limited hours and safety protocols in place. The current exhibition, Vaguely Political, is a solo show by painter Devin Reynolds who draws his technique and inspiration from murals and the art of hand-painted signs. In Vaguely Political, Reynolds explores the gentrification and displacement of the BIPOC community in Venice, California—where he grew up—during the ’90s.
When artist and curator Storm Ascher was a senior in college, she was moving from studio to studio, trying to balance work and life between LA, Miami, and New York. The theme of Ascher’s first open call for her pop-up show was superposition—the idea of being split between different identities or feeling torn. And after several pop-ups, she decided to make Superposition permanent—that is, she turned her pop-up into a traveling art gallery with a socially conscious model, which she launched in 2018 after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York. For artists, Ascher says, Superposition is meant to be a place that can exist in many different facets of their life and identity, while also dismantling the perception that a permanent space is needed to show quality art. She works primarily with emerging artists of color who are of the diaspora and focuses on intersectionality. She saw the need to change the current model of representation, knowing that artists—including herself—were constantly forced to move around either because of their lifestyle or because they were being priced out of their studios. When she worked in galleries, Ascher would sit at a desk, she says, showing million-dollar pieces to one or two people a day. That’s valuable real estate, she thought, that could be going toward housing or other public services (her undergraduate thesis focused on how arts districts gentrify low-income neighborhoods). This year, Superposition hosted an offsite pop-up as part of Frieze Los Angeles with an exhibit that included the work of Cameroon-born Ludovic Nkoth, whose paintings explore his visions of Africa after moving to the US at the age of thirteen, and John Rivas, a first-generation American whose collages and paintings tell the story of his Salvadoran ancestors. This September, Ascher is celebrating her gallery’s second anniversary at the Reform Club Amagansett in the Hamptons with a series of rotating exhibits featuring fifteen artists, available for viewing by appointment by emailing [email protected].