‘We have a voice’: Flux Art Space to host six women talking about their experiences as Black abstract artists

It was during a visit to her art studio when a curator asked Los Angeles-based abstract artist Lisa Diane Wedgeworth, “What conversations are you having with other Black women abstract artists in Los Angeles?”

She stood there for a moment and realized she had not had that discussion.

“I realized that I’ve only had very casual, brief conversations, but we never actually sat down and discussed our experience of what it means to be a Black woman abstract artist based in Los Angeles.

“What does that mean within our placement within the art world?”

So Wedgeworth reached out to five other women she knew were working in abstraction to talk. She posted a screenshot on Instagram and quickly realized, based on the response, that there were more people who wanted to be a part of the conversation and even more who were interested in listening to it.

“And then Betsy Lohrer Hall of [Long Beach’s] Flux Art Space reached out and said that she’d like to host it,” Wedgeworth said.

That is how Conversations About Abstraction was born, with six Black women abstract artists in Los Angeles. The event is free and will be held virtually via Zoom this Sunday; those interested in attending must RSVP by Friday, July 24 to [email protected].

“I don’t have an agenda here, for the audience,” Wedgeworth said. “This is a platform for us to share our experiences and our work, we have a voice, we’re relevant. I just want people to come and be open-minded and to hear the stories of other people, they should know that we exist, that we are equally as talented and to know that we’re here.”

The artists, many of whom are teaching artists at institutions throughout the region with extensive exhibition histories as well as recipients of notable accolades for their work, are Sharon Barnes, Adrian Culverson, Adrienne DeVine, June Edmonds, Holly Tempo, and Wedgeworth herself.

The moderators of the discussion are both leaders within Southern California’s art sphere, Isabelle Lutterodt,  Director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park and Dr. jill moniz, Academic Curator at Pomona College Museum of Art.

Tempo and Wedgeworth were both among recipients of this year’s City of Los Angeles (COLA) Individual Artist Fellowship for visual arts, while Edmonds was a 2018 recipient of the prestigious award, and was recently given the inaugural Aware Prize at the Armory Show. DeVine, a mixed media artist, will have a window installation at Flux, “Wire, Raffia, Shadows,” starting Aug. 1.

Wedgeworth’s abstract, autobiographical paintings “explore the depth of blackness,” according to her bio, “because the black experience in the United States is beautiful, incredible, horrifying, tragic and exceptional[…]”

“For a lot of people that I’ve talked to, and even in my experience, those of us that have gone to art school or have earned degrees in art, we are not taught about abstract painters or painters or artists, that are of color,” Wedgeworth said. “They were predominantly white American men or white European men. That’s the curriculum.”

Not that Wedgeworth has anything against Mark Rothko or Robert Motherwell, who she names as artists she looks to for inspiration, but she knows that there are other artists out there making work “equally wonderful and influential.”

Flux Art Space, a tiny artist-run project space and the storefront studio of local artist Betsy Lohrer Hall, is located just around the corner from Viento y Agua Coffee House off Fourth Street. Flux was founded by Hall in 2018 to encourage cross-cultural dialogue and “celebrate creative expression as an integral part of life.”

“I love that Flux can connect our local community with the greater community of Los Angeles, and that’s really important to me, to connect artists with each other and artists with a broader audience,” said Hall. “I’m also committed to supporting artists of color.”

With in-person exhibitions, workshops and gatherings on pause due to the pandemic, Hall is looking forward to being able to connect virtually.

“We’ve been working on this for quite some time and because we had to transition online, in a way that makes it more possible for a little tiny space like mine to put on something like this,” Hall said.

Conversations About Abstraction takes place online via Zoom from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 26. Those interested in attending must RSVP to [email protected] by Friday, July 24. For updates and more information check out Flux Art Space on Instagram @fluxartspace.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.