Sanctuary: Recent Acquisitions to the Permanent Collection of The California African American Museum

March 18 – September 6, 2020

curated by: Mar Hollingsworth, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager

Carla Jay Harris, <I>Sphinx,</I> 2019. Archival pigment print, two panels, 40 x 30 in. each.. Courtesy the artist.

Carla Jay Harris, Sphinx, 2019. Archival pigment print, two panels, 40 x 30 in. each.. Courtesy the artist via CAAM website

Sanctuary features recently acquired works that explore the concepts of safety and refuge as they relate to the African American experience. Whether real, staged, or imagined, the worlds depicted in these photographs and mixed-media works support complex narratives and assert the importance of claiming a place of one’s own. Each artist in the exhibition presents a unique perspective on the creation of space, inhabiting actual physical locations, evoking emotional ties and affiliations, or manifesting dream-like havens through digital manipulation.

In several instances, photographs are displayed alongside three-dimensional sculptural works by the same artist, forming expressive installations that speak to the artists’ material versatility and to the creative potentials of the media in which they work. For example, Gary Simmons’s photograph of an empty academic setting appears in tandem with one of his ghostly erased drawings of coniferous trees on a school chalkboard, while Janna Ireland’s impeccably staged self-portrait complements a small still-life assemblage that suggests the fragility of her own domestic construct.

Sanctuary includes works by Sadie Barnette, April Bey, Carla Jay Harris, Janna Ireland, Adia Millett, Yinka Shonibare, Gary Simmons, and Sam Vernon.

Sanctuary: Recent Acquisitions to the Permanent Collection is curated by Mar Hollingsworth, Visual Arts Curator and Program Manager.

The California African American Museum’s mission is to research, collect, preserve, and interpret for public enrichment the history, art, and culture of African Americans with an emphasis on California and the western United States.

Founded in 1977, CAAM has a long and rich history. The first African American museum of art, history, and culture fully supported by a state, CAAM was the direct result of a sustained, multiyear campaign of activism undertaken by visionary founders and community members. Its creation was an early and tangible recognition by the State of California of the critically important role African Americans have played in the American West’s cultural, economic, and political development.