David Hammons, Untitled, 1968, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of George and Judith Sunga, © David Hammons

Opening This Week! Life Model: Charles White and His Students

February 13, 2019
Adrienne Adams, LEAP Fellow, Director's Office

The short film, Life Model: Charles White and His Students, comprises archival footage and photographs and is narrated by artists included in the Life Model: Charles White and His Students exhibition curated by C. Ian White and Sarah Jesse. Students of Charles White share their memories and personal narratives that inform us of White’s mentorship and approach to teaching. 

Painter and draftsman Charles White (1918–1979) was known for his powerful depictions of African American life and the human condition. This exhibition presented at the former Otis Art Institute campus, where he was the first African American faculty member, illuminates his impact on his students. In addition to fostering technical skills, White urged his pupils to be “thinking artists” and to hone distinct points of view. 

For black artists in Los Angeles like Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, Ulysses Jenkins, and Richard Wyatt, White was a role model carving out a place in white-dominated art institutions. For others, his influence is most evident in their own work—the celebratory depictions of blackness in Corky McCoy’s album covers, Kent Twitchell and Eloy Torres’s portraiture, and the sociopolitical commentary in Judithe Hernandez’s work. Collectively, the assembled objects shed light on White’s legacy. One of the most important artists of his time, Charles White cultivated some of the most significant artists of ours. 

“I feel that in advancing my ideas in the art field, I will have to spend much of my time teaching and encouraging young Negro art students,” White wrote in 1943. “We have the opportunity to make a great contribution to American culture, but it will have to be a group effort rather than an individual contribution.”

This show at Charles White Elementary School—named after the artist in 2004—is a companion exhibition to Charles White: A Retrospective, on view at LACMA from February 17 to June 9, 2019. White’s work is also on view in Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary at the California African American Museum through August 25, 2019. 

A variety of public programs including tours, art-making workshops, and artist conversations will take place during Charles White Elementary School Gallery public hours (1–4 pm on Saturdays). Charles White Elementary School is located at 2401 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90057. Enter the gallery at the corner of Park View and Wilshire Boulevard. Complimentary parking is available in the lot at 611 South Carondelet Street, between Wilshire and Sixth Street. Please bring your parking ticket to the gallery for validation. Street parking is also available in the neighborhood.