Living art exhibit commemorates 25th anniversary of civil unrest
Twenty-five years ago this month, Los Angeles was on fire – literally and emotionally. The city erupted in anger following the acquittal of the LAPD officers who viciously beat Rodney King.
Many in South L.A. hit the streets, looting stores, burning businesses and attacking anything or anybody perceived as a symbol of the oppression and frustration felt by the community. Then the calm returned and leaders, residents and elected officials united to determine the future.
The result of transforming anger into activism is the focus of “Re-Imagine Justice,” a month-long commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the uprising sponsored by the Community Coalition. The centerpiece of the tribute is an interactive display featuring dramatic paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media exploring the themes of social justice, racial equality and police violence.
Explaining the importance of the remembrance, Alberto Retana, president/CEO of Community Coalition, said, “The L.A. uprising is a historical marker for our city, so much that it’s defined our city for the last 25 years. So much of the progress made, so much of the unfinished business has a lot to do with what took place on April 29, 1992.
“We wanted to leverage the anniversary to talk about what progress has been accomplished and what’s left to do and we think that the arts is a way to get the community involved. We didn’t want to pass the opportunity to both educate our younger folks about what happened and also empower our community to fight for what’s right.”
Curator Cristina Pacheco, who produced the exhibit, noted, “The first thing that’s important in putting something like this together is to honor people’s experiences and stories, especially the residents who lived through this moment in time. We have over 40 artists represented in the show and over 80 percent of the art was either loaned or created by South Los Angeles community members.”
The exhibit’s highlights include Leroy Hamilton’s “Stories of 1992,” an installation of a looted storefront. Inside are bare shelves, graffittied walls and video interviews of South L.A. community members recalling their experiences during that time.
Other memorable pieces are Big Bowl of Idea’s timeline presentation that reviews the events preceding the Rodney King beating, the verdict, the uprising and the aftermath that followed; and Nonny de la Peña’s “One Dark Night,” a virtual reality display depicting the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
The multi-ethnic, multigenerational crowd of 300+ at the April 1 opening counted Congresswoman Karen Bass, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. Councilmember Marqueese Harris-Dawson among those viewing the galleries of art.
“Los Angeles is in a pivotal moment to determine its future and the success of the city’s health and vibrancy will depend on whether neighborhoods such as South Los Angeles can share in the new prosperity,” said Bass. “As California and Los Angeles look to lead the nation in progressive values, South L.A.’s engaged people power is leading the conversation on how to do so fairly and equitably for all.”
As part of the 25th anniversary commemoration, the “Re-Imagine Justice” exhibit will continue until April 29 at the Community Coalition, 8101 S. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The organization will also sponsor several panel discussions each Thursdays at 6 p.m. The topics will cover “Black and Brown Unity and Solidarity” on April 6, “L.A. Uprising: Then and Now” on April 13; “Women in Movement” on April 20, and “Beauty of South L.A.” on April 27.
The observance will conclude on April 29 with a rally and march starting at 11 a.m. at Florence and Normandie Avenues followed by the Future Fest concert at 1 p.m., at 81st and Vermont.
To learn more, visit cocosouthla.og/lauprising.