The California African American Museum (CAAM) presented a unique opportunity to mingle cultural awareness with social engagement with its presentation of the “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” launch party on July 12.
The evening centered on the opening of two exhibits: Artist Gary Simmon’s “Fade to Black,” and “Face to Face: Los Angeles Portraiture,” in tandem with the ongoing “Center Stage: African American Women in Silent Films,” Intersections: Caribbean and Brazilian Art from the Permanent Collection,” and “Circles and Circuits I: History and Art of the Chinese Caribbean Diaspora.” Also on view are the installations “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992,” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992,” continuing commentaries on the city’s contentious racial history.
Originally from New York, Gary Simmons received his MFA from CalArts in 1990, and infuses his drawings, paintings, and sculptures with content centered on his experiences with class and race. He is perhaps best known for his “Blue Field Explosions (2009),” a wall painting of white cloud bursts on a blue background executed for the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. The pieces in this installation utilize chalk rendered titles of African American silent films on chalkboards or slate walls.
“Face to Face” is a collection of some 50 examples of the age-old genre of portrait painting. Included in the collection are paintings by internationally renowned superstar Kehinde Wiley, and upcoming Baltimore, Md.-based painter Amy Sherald. Known for her commentary on African Americana, Sherald’s selection for this exhibit, “Pythatgore,” showcases her impeccable technique to full effect.
These visual presentations were augmented by entertainment from three separate DJs (the acronym for Disc Jockey). Inside the building art aficionados were treated to the seasoned sounds of DJ CEEBROWN, a local fixture and popular throughout Asia and Europe, who’s been spinning since 1995. His fusion of world music multiculturalism has allowed him to cultivate a corporate clientele ranging from Adidas, to Jack Daniels, Nike, the Nokia Theater, and Red Bull.
Outside, another hometown product, DJ Francesca Harding, prompted attendees to move their feet as they endured the lines for the food trucks providing sustenance. Currently on the airwaves on KPFK (FM 90.7), Francesca has proved her soundtrack for bigwigs like the Ace Hotel DTLA, Guess, Forever 21, and Victoria’s Secret. Most recently, she has brought her turntable skills to the small screen on the TNT action drama “Agent X.”
All of this motivated the museum to stay open well past its official closing time, encouraged in no small part by the auditory entertainment of Jasmine Solano. The star of MTV’s “Scratch the Surface,” this pint sized “raptress” has parlayed the skills cultivated during her northeastern upbringing to become a global music inspiration whose influences recognize no geographic boundaries. Her particular set encouraged the crowd to engage in spontaneous choreography via the execution of various line dances including the “Cuban Shuffle” among others.