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Reflections on the Self: Selections from the Permanent Collection

Reflections on the Self illustrates the breadth of mediums and approaches that artists have used to depict the human form. From lifelike resemblance to more abstract gestures, the complexities of the human face and body have engaged generations of visual artists working in painting, printmaking, sculpture, and assemblage alike. The objects on display in this exhibition are drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, including generous gifts from private collectors and the artists themselves.

The exhibition begins with portraits of powerful historical figures such as Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Mary McLeod Bethune. It continues with celebratory images of cultural icons—including Thelonious Monk and a New Orleans Grand Marshal—as well as references to black pride, past and present. In other works that explore spirituality and the metaphysical world, bodily forms appear idealized or fantastical. These scenes are laden with symbols that evoke Biblical stories, personal narratives, and tales of diaspora. The exhibition concludes with objects that reflect upon human relationships in both public and private contexts: a neighborhood stroll, a dance in a nightclub, piano and quilting lessons, an image of rebellion. In A Family Treasure Found, an installation by Dominique Moody, the artist delves into questions of familial bonds, presence, and absence through her multilayered depictions of her parents, her siblings, and herself.

Reflections on the Self provides an opportunity to reflect on the art for which the Museum proudly cares, and it prompts discussions about the relationships between past and present ideas. The collection contains nearly 4,000 works of art and history, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, ephemera, and historical documents. They trace the evolution of the Museum from its inception in 1977 through the growth of its collection and the expansion of its exhibition programs, from which many works in the collection originate. Today, the California African American Museum continues to make acquisitions through gifts and the stewardship of its Collections Committee.

Featured artists include Daphne Arthur, Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, Phoebe Beasley, April Bey, John Biggers, Milton Bowens, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert Colescott, Jacques-Enguerrand Gourgue, Lyle Ashton Harris, Zeal Harris, Clementine Hunter, Suzanne Jackson, Artis Lane, Jacob Lawrence, Manuel Mendive, Dominique Moody, William Pajaud, Faith Ringgold, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Lezley Saar, Raymond Saunders, John T. Scott, Carroll Harris Simms, Joseph Sims, Lyle S. Suter, Bob Thompson, Timothy Washington, Charles White, and Richard Wyatt.

Photo Gallery
Exhibition Programs

Saturday, June 4, 2016 • 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
In Conversation: Alison and Lezley Saar

On the occasion of Reflections on the Self, this artist talk invites exhibiting artists and siblings Alison and Lezley Saar to explore the relevance of the human body in their work. Click here to RSVP or call 213.744.2024

Saturday, July 16, 2016 • 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Assembling a Figure

Inspired by the assemblages in Reflections on the Self, artist June Edmonds leads participants in the creation of a body-like assemblage with found objects. Bring your own trinkets and mementos to add to the piece! Click here to RSVP or call 213.744.2024