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LACMA Hosts Obama Portraits and Black Americans Exhibit
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Staff Writer
Published October 21, 2021

Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley, 2018, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © 2018 Kehinde Wiley; Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama by Amy Sherald, 2018, oil on linen, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. (Courtesy photo)

The impressive paintings entitled “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama,” as created by Amy Sherald, and “Barack Obama,” as visualized by Kehinde Wiley, will be open for public viewing at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The “Black American Portraits” exhibit, which contains two centuries of African American portraiture from LACMA’s permanent collection, will also be on display.

The presentations kick-off on November 7 with an all-day open house at LACMA’s main facility in L.A.’s Miracle Mile district.  The programming will feature conversations, music and other activities to engage all ages. L.A. County’s COVID-19 guidelines will be followed as well.

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“‘The Obama Portraits Tour’ and ‘Black American Portraits’ present an exciting opportunity to share programs that encourage conversations on the power of portraiture,” said Naima J. Keith, LACMA vice president of Education and Programs. “Created in the spirit of LACMA’s mission to bring audiences together through art, the lineup includes an array of programs, ranging from virtual artist conversations, a special Poetry in Color Virtual Slam, art classes, and virtual Andell Family Sundays Anytime to a film series celebrating Black joy and resilience. There will be something for everyone to enjoy.”

Elizabeth Catlett, Sharecropper, 1952, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2011 American Art Acquisitions Group, © 2021 Catlett Mora Family Trust/licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA (Courtesy photo)

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery arranged the “The Obama Portraits Tour,” which will be available to view through January 2, 2022. The “Black American Portraits” can be viewed through April 17, 2022. General admission tickets for the two exhibitions and the November 7 Open House are available at lacma.org/gettickets. Also, the website offers advance all-day free access tickets for Tuesday, November 9; Saturday, November 20; and Tuesday, December 14.

In addition, LACMA plans supplementary programs inspired by the theme of portraiture. The Black Joy and Resilience Film Series takes place from November 8 to December 17.  The virtual event presents screenings and discussions about the films “Miss Juneteenth,” “Homeroom,” “My Name is Pauli Murray,” “Passing” and “Summer of Soul.” The series is free, however, reservations are required.

Portrait of a Sailor (Paul Cuffe?), United States, circa 1800, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Purchased with funds provided by Cecile Bartman, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA (Courtesy photo)

5 Questions, 5 Artists: Reframing Portraiture opens November 9 through December 15 via Zoom  and includes conversations between artists and LACMA  curators and educators. The participating artists are Jordan Casteel, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Lyle Ashton Harris, Lezley Saar and Titus Kaphar.

An Interdisciplinary Writing Workshop is set for Tuesday, November 16 via Zoom. Participants will listen to music, read poetry, examine works of art and perform writing exercises. The topics will cover the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Lives Matter movements. Dr. Tiffany E. Barber and celeste oaks will facilitate the program.

Also on November 16, LACMA teaching artist Elonda Norris will emcee a free virtual art discussion aimed at enlightening caregivers and individuals afflicted with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s.

On Monday, November 22, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Smithsonian secretary, and Michael Govan, LACMA CEO, will discuss “The Obama Portraits Tour” and the Smithsonian’s recent launch of “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” which explores the history and legacy of race and racism.

Deborah Roberts, Breaking ranks, 2018, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Karen R. Constine, the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, George and Azita Fatheree, Nike O. Opadiran, and Demetrio and Gianna Kerrison, © Deborah Roberts, photo by Philip Rogers (Courtesy photo)

A special edition of Poetry in Color on December 16 will highlight original poetry inspired by President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Zoom program features teen participants from the Art Institute of Chicago: Ashlee Haze, Jasmine Mans, Nkosi Nkululeko, Joy Priest, and Yazmin Monet Watkins. Tonya Ingram will serve as host.

Andell Family Sundays Anytime is comprised of activities that families can do together such as music, dance, art, and storytelling. The activities are available on LACMA’s YouTube channel and Unframed blog anytime for on-demand activities.

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Black Joy in Art, scheduled for December 5, 12, 19,  and 26, includes interactive floral fantasy photo booths created by artist Maurice Harris of Bloom & Plume and an artist conversation with Amy Sherald.

Complete details and information on all programs can be viewed at lacma.org.

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