The Best Black Art Shows in Los Angeles Right Now

Despite a gloomy, wet, and rainy start to 2023, Los Angeles is beginning February and Black History Month with sunshine and a diverse array of art exhibitions, symbolizing a hopeful and strong year ahead. Phillips Auction house opened its new West Hollywood digs with a gorgeous show, "A Love Letter to LA," that is curated by Storm Ascher of Superposition Gallery and features over 20 artists from a variety of disciplines. My favorites from the exhibition, which is open through Feb. 3, include the multi-layered assemblages by Timothy Washington, whose LA art career launched over 50 years ago in a group show at LACMA with other LA legends like Charles White and David Hammons. The noted work of the Black Arts Movement member is joined by ceramic pieces by Alex Anderson, Mustafa Ali Clayton, and Rikki Wright, as well as a variety of figurative and abstract painting and mixed media works by some of the hottest emerging artists out now.

Alison Saar uproot
Alison Saar, Uproot, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and LA Louver.

This past week Alison Saar opened her 8th solo show at LA Louver. The exhibition, coming ahead of Black History Month, takes a deep dive into the multi-layered history of Black womanhood in the United States. Entitled "Uproot," Saar is quite poignant in her unpacking of the history of fertility and reproductive health for Black women and the stereotypes and abuses that persist today. The artist’s bold and unapologetic expression is inspiring, and I hope to see more women artists continue the tradition of radical honesty and storytelling.

Another notable show is "MZ.25 (My Condolences)," an exhibition curated by Monsieur Zohore at M + B gallery. The hybrid solo/group exhibition explores various interpretations of Black representation and will include subsequent performances during its run through Feb. 18. "Who Am I If I Don’t Represent," a solo show by Glenn Hardy Jr. at Charlie James Gallery on view through Feb. 11 also centers Black bodies and representation through a dynamic series of paintings highlighting Black joy, leisure, and simple quotidian life. Charlie James’s second location presents, "JA – RT – LA – 23," an exhibition of plaster-cast sculpture works from John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres in addition to new works that were made during their recent residency at the gallery. The artists have been working together since 1980 to highlight Black and Brown subjects from their native South Bronx community. The pair are true pioneers of intentional multicultural representation, a topic that the art industry continues to navigate today.  

Kwame Brathwaite
Kwame Brathwaite, Untitled (Clara Lewis Buggs with Yellow Flower), 1962, printed in 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles

Themes of representation also appear in a gorgeous show, "It’s Time," at Vielmetter Los Angeles where the work of artists Kwesi Botchway, Genevieve Gaignard, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya are in conversation with the portraiture of Kwame Brathwaite, who is widely known for his photographic documentation of the Black is Beautiful movement of the 1960s and '70s. The exhibition title, "It’s Time," is a nod to the 1962 jazz album by Max Roach featuring Abbey Lincoln. It not only refers to the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements of the period, but also suggests that now is still “the time” to prioritize the movement and efforts towards true liberation and representation for all.

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