Charles White (photo by Betty Friske, courtesy © the Charles White Archive)

Charles White: A Retrospective, currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), surveys the career of the mid-century artist whose figurative drawings and paintings granted a sense of dignity and empowerment to the African American historical leaders and anonymous, but specific, individuals he depicted. White was not just an artist, but a civil rights activist and educator himself, who taught at the Otis College of Art and Design from 1964 until his death in 1979. As the first African American faculty member there, he was an inspirational mentor to the Black students who passed through his classroom, including notable artists like Alonzo Davis, David Hammons, and Kerry James Marshall.

In conjunction with the exhibition, LACMA will be hosting the debut performance of Portrait of Charles White, a collaboration between actor and director Roger Guenveur Smith and composer and musician Marc Anthony Thompson. The pair has worked together on other critically acclaimed one-man shows focused on prominent Black figures, including Rodney King and Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton. These nuanced studies captured their subjects’ humanity as well as their historical import, a vision they will no doubt bring to their complex portrait of White.

When: Saturday, May 4, 7:30–8:30pm (free, tickets required)
Where: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Bing Theater, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles)

More info at LACMA.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.