A prolific painter, printmaker, muralist, draftsman, and photographer whose career spanned more than half a century, Charles White’s artistic portrayals of black subjects, life, and history were extensive and far-reaching. Plumb Line features contemporary artists whose work in the realm of black individual and collective life resonates with White’s profound and continuing influence.
From abstraction to figuration, the artists of Plumb Line find conversation with White through the largesse of their canvases, expansive renderings of black skin and black community, and in the treatment of black past and presence in ways that are both epic and intimate.
The plumb line, an architectural tool used to determine verticality, is a featured element in White’s Birmingham Totem, suggesting the work of black artists as architects of change. White himself can also be considered an artistic plumb line: a builder of black artistic opportunities and a compass directing us toward new aesthetic, liberatory possibilities.
Plumb Line is curated by Essence Harden, independent curator, and Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, for the California African American Museum. The exhibition is presented as a companion to the LACMA exhibitions Charles White: A Retrospective and Life Model: Charles White and his Students.
Complete list of artists: Derrick Adams, Sadie Barnette, Dawoud Bey, Diedrick Brackens, Greg Breda, Bisa Butler, Alfred Conteh, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ariel Dannielle, Kenturah Davis, Torkwase Dyson, Kohshin Finley, Derek Fordjour, Ficre Ghebreyesus, EJ Hill, Yashua Klos, Nate Lewis, Michelangelo Lovelace, Christopher Myers, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Deborah Roberts, Lava Thomas, Charles White, and Deborah Willis