Through a collection of publications, correspondence, reports and books chronicling and analyzing the six days of destruction in the Watts community in 1965 set alongside an intimate portrait of Watts today, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has put together an archives and photography exhibition, “Watts: Then and Now,” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion.
The exhibit in the University Library Cultural Art Center opens on Aug. 11–Fifty years to the day of the unrest–and is part of CSUDH’s year-long commemoration of the historic events that awakened the nation to social injustices and racial tensions in predominately poor African American communities.
The “Then” portion of the exhibition features items collected by CSUDH Archives and Special Collection related to the Watts Rebellion, including newspaper and magazine coverage of the event, publications from the black perspective, official reports, cultural events that resulted from and books written about or set around the rebellion, along with officials correspondences and speeches from the CSUDH archives’ Glenn M. Anderson Collection–Anderson was acting governor that August while Governor Pat Brown was out of the country.
What: “Watts: Then and Now” Archives and Contemporary Photography Exhibition
When: Tuesday, August 11 through January 28, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 8, 4-6:30 p.m.
A Conversation with Tim Watkins: Thursday, October 8, 4:00 p.m.
President and CEO of Watts Labor Community Action Committee
Where: Library Cultural Art Center,
California State University, Dominguez Hills,
1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747.
Click here for a map of the gallery’s location.
Cost: Free; parking $5 in campus lots (parking fee increases to $6 on August 18, 2015)
A mirror exhibition of the contemporary photos from the exhibit will be on display at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, 10950 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
“The archives exhibit hopes to reveal to students and the community the converging elements that brought about the Watts Rebellion, and this rather tumultuous time of the 1960s in which racial animosity was exposed,” said Greg Williams, director of the CSUDH Archives and Special Collection.
In addition to the rebellion-specific artifacts will be displays focused on other “riots,” including the 1871 Chinatown War, 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and looking at what was happening in Los Angeles and around the nation in 1965.
There also will be a case documenting the decision to locate CSUDH on the Dominguez Hills site. In August 1965 four locations were being considered for the new college, and in the wake of the Watts Rebellion, the university’s current location won out.
“While the Watts Rebellion was not the only reason CSU Dominguez Hills was located here, the rebellion brought about the final decision,” Williams said. “The site was a strong contender for its convenience to three freeways and proximity to a large population of high school students. What the rebellion did was bring the need to serve the region’s growing minority population into greater focus.”
The “Now” of the exhibition is an in-depth series of photographs of contemporary Watts taken by CSUDH assistant professor of art Ellie Zenhari. The 65 black and white and color photographs focus on four themes: People and the Community, the Neighborhoods, Historic Sites (Then and Now) and the Watts Towers.
Through dramatic compositions ranging from the poetic beauty of the Watts Towers to the spontaneous energy of the Watts bicycle groups, Zenhari encapsulates the spirit of the community. Photographs of the time-worn housing projects mingle with shop facades painted in brilliant hues of greens and yellows, showing the dynamic, shifting nature of the neighborhoods.
“I believe in the power of images as a tool to bring awareness and ultimately social change,” Zenhari said. “The Watts photo series intends to take a closer look at the complex realities of Watts communities and instigate visual interest and curiosity to see the extraordinary among the ‘ordinary.’ The images also capture the young generation of Watts, who are determined to make a positive difference through direct engagement with their communities.”
The exhibition runs through Jan. 28, 2016, and is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended hours until 8 p.m. will be offered on these dates: Sept. 16, 19, 24, 26, 30, Oct. 2, 8, 10.
A special exhibition reception will take place on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 4 to 7 p.m. featuring a talk with Tim Watkins, CEO of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC). A mirror exhibition of the contemporary photos also will be on display at WLCAC.
The Library Cultural Art Center is on the ground level of the University Library’s South Wing, with its entrance off Toro Center Drive, on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson, Calif. The exhibit is free but parking in campus lots is $6 payable at parking lot kiosks.
“Watts: Then and Now” is sponsored by the Office of the University President, University Library, CSUDH Archives and Special Collection and the Department of Art and Design.
For more information, call (310) 243-3895.