A Day at the Museum: CAAM

Four years ago, I went to the Whitney Museum in New York City for the first time and vividly remember an exhibit that featured paintings & photographs with African American subjects. I remember it partially for loving the hip hop elements woven in but mostly because it was the first time I had visited a major art museum that featured African American art in a prominent way. I wish I was making this up for dramatic effect, but unfortunately I’m not. Off the top of my head, I wouldn’t be able to name one “famous” painter who is black. This bothers me and no, I’m not an art historian, but I definitely want to expand my knowledge of artists who come from different walks of life beyond the ones I learned about growing up.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I wouldn’t have to travel far to see art that was created by black artists by visiting the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. To be honest, I didn’t know it existed (like I still don’t understand how given I’ve lived in LA for almost 10 years) but thank the Lord for Instagram! CAAM’s page is poppin’ and I came across their posts and immediately started following to feel connected to “the culture”. I went on a fun little field trip to check out the museum and am really grateful for the experience.

I do believe the museum is a celebration of black artists and is a historical platform for the African American community but I also fully believe it is a beautiful and well curated museum for anyone. Period.

Instead of writing up a whole long thing about each exhibit, I’ve decided to take a different approach this time. For creative purposes? A way to mix it up?.

Nah, I realized I’m actually not comfortable writing about art since I don’t want it to seem like I think I have a trained eye or something, so I’ll let the images do their magic and share a highlights video for ya instead.  

Artist: Adia Millett
Based in Oakland, CA
Medium: Paintings, Dollhouse miniatures, photographic, collages, quilts

First of all, this woman uses GLITTER in her paintings so I was immediately into it.

As Millett transitions from medium to medium and phase to phase in her practice, she exemplifies in her experience her central themes: that life is impermanent and identity is fluid and malleable. One should embrace change, always using the past to create a new future and drawing on losses for self-renewal.
— Mar Hollingsworth, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager

Second of all, curators exist for a reason. This sums up the work:


Featured: Charles White and various contemporary artists influenced by his works
Medium: Paintings, photography

I didn’t talk about this exhibit in my video, but every single piece is absolute FIRE. So much diversity which shows the true magic of Charles White’s impact on each of the artists.

Featured: Slavery’s impact on the establishment of California as a state
Medium: Photography, historical documents & items

Not gonna lie, this one felt a little too heavy so I didn’t spend as much time, but reading quotes from our past presidents on their views of slavery had me literally shaking my damn head.

Featured: Various artists
Medium: Sculpture, drawings, paintings, photography

Beautiful, powerful celebration of both male and female black bodies.

Features: Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, founder of The Liberator publication
Medium: Photography and historical documents

I am still mesmerized by the main subject’s life, Jefferson Lewis Edmonds. Someone needs to make a miniseries based on his story.

Los Angeles is wonderful. Nowhere in the United States is the Negro so well and beautifully housed, nor the average efficiency and intelligence in the colored population so high.
— W.E.B. Du Bois, 1913