Skip to main content

'Whose Streets?' director Damon Davis curates 'Black August' resistance art at L.A. upstart

"Untitled (from the series Redoubled/Something We Carry)," 2019, a photograph by Jen Everett — from a new group show organized by Crenshaw Dairy Mart in collaboration with film director Damon Davis. (Jen Everett )

August is a month whose days have been marked by milestones of Black struggle.

In August of 1791 a group of enslaved laborers in Haiti launched a rebellion against French colonial authorities that led to independence. Exactly 40 years later, Nat Turner led a rebellion of enslaved workers in Virginia — a rebellion that today bears his name. August of 1965 was when the Los Angeles Police Department pulled over Marquette Frye in Watts, a traffic stop that led to an uprising that lasted six days. It was another day in August of 1971, when George Jackson, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison and author of the influential autobiography and manifesto "Soledad Brother," was killed in a prison melee he was said to have started after overtaking guards with a smuggled gun , an action for which some say was he was framed.

Black August, as this growing commemoration of events is called (also the title of a 2007 film about Jackson), is something that Crenshaw Dairy Mart, a new art space that occupies an old dairy mart in Inglewood, did not want to go unacknowledged.

For their new virtual show, which bears "Black August" as its title, the neighborhood arts space is collaborating with artist and filmmaker Damon Davis, co-director with Sabaah Folayan of the 2017 documentary, "Whose Streets?", about the Ferguson uprisings of 2014 — which also took place in August.

Davis has selected three artists to stage takeovers of Crenshaw Dairy Mart's Instagram account (@crenshawdairymart) from Friday to Sunday, and through that period he will be hosting a series of related dialogues about art and resistance an d streaming "Whose Streets?" for a special 72-hour release.

Works by the selected artists — Jen Everett, Adrian Octavius Walker and Lola Ogbara — will also be viewable on the Crenshaw Dairy Mart website.

"Black August" is the latest offering from Crenshaw Dairy Mart, a new arts nonprofit that in its short life span has opened, closed and pivoted to digital.

Story continues

Founded by artists and former USC classmates Noé Olivas, Alexandre Dorriz and Patrisse Cullors (who is also a co-founder of Black Lives Matter), the aim of this community arts space is to bring together people and work at the intersection of art and activism.

"A gallery," says Cullors, "for the people, by the people."

Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Crenshaw Dairy Mart, at her home in June. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

Their first opening was held on Feb. 29 with a group exhibition titled "Yes on R," which explores the grassroots activism behind Measure R, the county ballot initiative that called for increased oversight of the L.A. Sheriff's Department — one that was overwhelmingly approved by voters. (Cullors has long been active i n justice reform causes.)

That opening, which coincided with the For Freedoms Congress in Los Angeles, an arts and activism initiative led, in part, by New York artist Hank Willis Thomas, featured artists and DJs and drew hundreds of people, says Cullors.

"That was the last group setting I was in," she recalls. "It was powerful, really powerful."

Not three weeks later, the safer-at-home orders landed in California and Crenshaw Dairy Mart was forced to close its physical space. But Cullors and her collaborators lost no time in moving their efforts to the digital arena.

"The amazing thing about the organizers leading this institution," says Cullors, "is that we just shifted."

In April, as the pandemic's economic effects began to ripple through the city, the art space launched a relief competition — asking artists to submit works in support of the concept "Care Not Cages." Three artists were picked to receive relief funds of between $500 and $1,500.

In response to the open call, more than half a dozen incarcerated artists also submitted works. Crenshaw Dairy Mart supported them too: with small awards of $250 a piece, payable to their families or their books.

That effort was followed by a show of works by incarcerated artists on, an online gallery space shared by 81 L.A. galleries. Of that effort (which is still active), "100% of the funds are going to the artists," says Cullors.

"Black August" emerged as a result of Cullors' personal connection to Davis.

She first met the St. Louis filmmaker in 2014, after she helped coordinate a Freedom Ride of more than 600 Los Angeles artists and activists to help support the uprisings in Ferguson. Since then, the two have found common ground in their art and their causes.

"Damon is not just a filmmaker," he is also an artist," says Cullors. "So we said, let's have him curate a show."

Damon Davis, right, with "Whose Streets?" collaborators Sabbah Folayan, Kayla Reed and Tef Poe at Sundance in 2017. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The a rtist Instagram takeovers begin Friday, but Cullors and Davis will kick things off with a special preview talk held on Instagram Live on Thursday afternoon. Artist conversations will follow on the morning of each subsequent day.

"Yes on R," in the meantime, remains fully installed at Crenshaw Dairy Mart's space. It is available for viewing by appointment.


Popular posts from this blog

History of Art Timeline

The historical past of art is usually told as a chronology of masterpieces created during each civilization. It can thus be framed as a narrative of high culture, epitomized by the Wonders of the World. On any other hand, vernacular art expressions can even be integrated into art historic narratives, called folk arts or craft. The more intently that an art historian engages with these latter sorts of low culture, the much more likely it is that they will determine their work as analyzing visual culture or cloth culture, or as contributing to fields associated with art historical past, akin to anthropology or archaeology. In the latter cases, art gadgets may be called archeological artifacts. Surviving art from this era comprises small carvings in stone or bone and cave painting. The first traces of human-made gadgets appeared in southern Africa, the Western Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe Adriatic Sea, Siberia Baikal Lake, India, and Australia. These first traces are general…

How to Show Art Work when the Gallery Says No Thanks

There are places in the town where you live where you can show your artwork when the big gallery you solicited said, "No, thanks."
Other artists may need to find venues other than galleries to show their artworks as well. Visual artists living in art-rich communities where there is a lot of local competition will need to get creative about display opportunities.

Or on the other hand, in towns without large art venues, it is important for artists to find smaller and less obvious places to show your art.

How to Show Art Work When The Gallery Says No Thanks

1. Show Where You Go

The most successful approach to finding a place in your town to display your artwork is to solicit a place that you go to frequently. Make a list of all the places you go to each day, each week, and each month.

Make a special trip, or the next time you visit note if the establishment currently exhibits any artwork, if it is local, and if it is for sale.

Also note if they have available wall space where a…

Book review (nonfiction): Form or function? In the history of poster art, the two sides are constantly at war

“Who takes the eye takes all,” said Mary Lowndes of the Artists’ Suffrage League in the early 1900s, neatly summarizing the need for striking graphics on the banners that suffragists were making for their marches. Lowndes’ statement could serve as the motto for all those who attempt to persuade by visual means, be they propagandists for political parties or advertisers selling soap. “The Poster,” edited by Gill Saunders and Margaret Timmers of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is a beautiful and entertaining account of the history of the medium, illustrated with examples drawn from the museum’s extensive collection.While handbill-sized fliers affixed to surfaces had long been in existence, it was the development of the large-scale color lithographic technique, with images composed of several pieces that could be pasted together into one picture, that made possible the explosion of graphic media campaigns in the 19th century. The first-rate artists who turned th…