Donald Glover, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Toast Alfonso Cuarón…

The guest list at Saturday night’s LACMA Art + Film Gala could easily be mistaken for collaborators on the year’s best mixtape, boasting some cool combinations of A-list stars of film, music, fashion and art mingling at the annual event.

Donald Glover and Beck crossed paths with Laura Dern and Greta Gerwig, before posing with Jared Leto and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. “Marriage Story” director Noah Baumbach chatted with “Parasite’s” Bong Joon Ho. Alfonso Cuarón circled up with Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, as the night’s honoree held court at the back of the dining room with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro. The trio of Mexican directors, affectionately called “The Three Amigos,” have now all been feted at the annual benefit gala (Iñárritu was honored in 2015 and del Toro last year) and also buddied up to event’s co-chair Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Onstage, Cuarón thanked DiCaprio and co-chair LACMA trustee Eva Chow for bringing “film and art, that are two children of the same family, to dine at the same table.”

“I’d like to take you through a journey that started a few hundred thousand years ago. I promise not to do it real time and in black and white,” he cracked before launching into a speech about the centuries’ long comfort that storytelling has provided, including the digital revolution that has brought filmmaking into the palms of our hands. “This is maybe why humans still gather in dark spaces to share single stories, of good and bad, of the important things in life that never change — love, loss, friendship, loyalty.”

He concluded: “As our paths grow darker, more harried, more fragmented, there has never been a more important time to tell humanity’s story.”

Netflix chief Ted Sarandos and Glover presented to Cuarón, celebrating what makes the director “one of the true masters of cinema.” Glover told the crowd how watching “Y Tu Mamá También” in 11th grade influenced how he viewed ideas like masculinity. “Children of Men” is a movie I watch every time I’m about to make something,” he added. “Because I feel like it represents exactly what art is supposed to do, which is be so honest that it’s prophetic.”

After Cuarón’s speech, Glover reflected on what it’s like to befriend someone he’s long admired. “A lot of people here are my heroes who I look up to,” he told Variety. “It’s kind of the same thing when like, someone younger comes up to me and is like, ‘Oh, I grew up on you.’” I think it’s always nice to remind those people, [that] you had like a huge effect on how I envision art and that kind of stuff. So I think it’s the healthiest way to show gratitude.”

On collaborating with Cuarón in the future, Glover added, “I would love to, and we’ve definitely talked about a bunch of stuff… but I’m like, anything he wants me to do, I’m there, you know, I just love what he makes.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 02: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Camila Morrone, Maria Eladia and Alfonso Cuarón, wearing Gucci, attend the 2019 LACMA Art + Film Gala Presented By Gucci at LACMA on November 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA)

CREDIT: Getty Images for LACMA

EGOT-winner John Legend presented the night’s second honor to artist Betye Saar. “Betty is one of the most important artists of her generation,” he said. “She’s an icon of the feminist and black arts movement with her unique ability to remember to reclaim and to remix black history, good and bad, and turn it into beautiful, powerful work,” he said.

“I love Betye. As an L.A. native it meant so much to be here,” Ava DuVernay told Variety. “I’m working with Cicely Tyson right now and someone like Ms. Tyson, someone like Ms. Saar, at 90, 93-years-old to be still making work, still making art, it’s exciting for me.”

Also spotted among the crowd at the annual event — which raised a record-breaking $4.6 million for the museum — were Will Ferrell (who joked about his new look, quipping that his haircut is ‘Navy Seal Handsome’ and stumping for a role if Cuarón does a Navy Seal film), Oscar-winner Regina King (who took over the dance floor with her “Beale Street” co-star Kiki Layne), Cynthia Erivo (taking a quick break from her “Harriet” press tour) and Salma Hayek Pinault and François-Henri Pinault (who swayed along to the music as Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals performed).

LACMA director Michael Govan, Gucci President and CEO Marco BizzarriNaomi Campbell, Willem Dafoe, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jon Hamm, Bong Joon Ho, Djimon Honsou, Brie Larson, Ricky Martin & Jwan Yosef, Melina Matsoukas, Sienna Miller, Camila Morrone, Keanu Reeves, L.A. Reid, Lana Del Rey, Liberty Ross, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, David E. Ryu, Zoe Saldana & Marco Perego, Yara Shahidi, Molly Shannon, Molly Sims, Amandla Stenberg, Tyler the Creator, Christoph Waltz, and Suki Waterhouse also attended.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 02: (L-R) Billie Eilish and Alessandro Michele, both wearing Gucci, attend the 2019 LACMA Art + Film Gala Presented By Gucci at LACMA on November 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA)

CREDIT: Getty Images for LACMA

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A conversation with South African Artist Siwa Mgoboza

Siwa Mgoboza, Les Etres D’Africadia IV, Inkjet Photographic Epson on Natural Paper, 59.4cm X 42cm

Siwa Mgoboza, 26, a South African native and a multidisciplinary visual artist, is one of the most dynamic  emerging artists on the African art scene.

Siwa grew up in Peru and Poland, returning to South Africa at the age of 18 to pursue a Fine Arts degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, where he majored in painting. He graduated in 2015 and has been working as an artist ever since.

Siwa’s works have been presented regularly in art fairs and galleries, including the 1-54 African Contemporary Art Fair in Morocco, Paris’ Loft Gallery, and galleries in London and New York.

In an interview with Global Voices, he discussed the use of Shweshwe (a printed, dyed cotton fabric widely used for traditional South African clothing) in his recent body of work, his relationship with art school, and working as an artist in South Africa.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Les Etres D’Africadia IV Pajarina Fantina. Photographic Print. 59.4 x 42 & 180 x 144 cm. Ed of 10 + 3AP (1)

Omid Memarian:  What’s your thought process in working with Shweshwe?

SIWA MGOBOZA: The reason I started working with textiles was that I wanted to do something that felt authentic, realistic, and personal to me. I started looking towards myself, my culture, and this is something I wasn’t really exposed to growing up overseas. I came back to South Africa when I was 18. I had no idea what it truly meant to be black or an African, and to add to the complexity, being gay in Africa. The work started to feel imaginary, a space where I could exist peacefully.

South Africa is advertised as a country that is united in its diversity, but actually we’re not. There was  much fighting, divisions. So it became a way to start talking about the things that I was experiencing on a daily basis without making it seem sad. What I particularly enjoy about the work is the way people relate to it with fondness and celebration.

OM:  Your artworks are very imaginative, interpretive, colorful and very different than what you were trained to do at art school. What inspired to choose your current artistic path? And how did your education contribute to it?

SM: I’m inspired by other artists. I had lectures pushing me in different directions. I had peers who were helping me. So, for me, it became a way to start negotiating exactly what it meant to be me.

The school was disappointing. I was thinking, because I was studying in a school in Africa, that I’d be taught African art history and about artists on the continent, but it was not that at all.  It was instead the same stuff that I was taught overseas: learning about the Western artists. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the movement called FeesMustFall. That’s the movement that began in South Africa which essentially was about the curriculum and how we were taught. So that, for me, began a need to study and start investigating outside of the school and starting to read on my own, independently, to essentially decolonize myself as well in terms of what we were being taught. Because I wasn’t being taught a particularly African curriculum. In my final year, when I get to work on a specific body of work, I dedicated my entire time to making sure that I questioned everything that I was being taught.

THE DEPARTMENT OF AFROCORRECTIONAL SERVICES IV 2016 Archival ink-jet print on Hahnemuhle Photorag 90 x 70 cm Edition of 6

OM:  How have your challenges with your art school’s curriculum and the lack of representation been reflected in your work?

SM: First of all, I work with African references, but I use Western references as well because people know those works and they’re instantly recognizable and iconic and actually it allows me to add another layer of significance to these particular works, and make the work universal. That’s why the work feels so tense. It’s almost like collaging. So I’m trying to take all these different things that I have with me, put them together, and share a story.

OM:  What role does optimism play in your work?

SM:  Well, you need the optimism because otherwise I’d be depressed the whole time. I’d never be able to get on trains and be able to come and engage with people like you. To choose to look at the positive is, in itself, a form of resistance. My generation in South Africa now has decided to take it upon themselves to change things in our lifetime. We want to see spaces that are inclusive and that are actually united in the diversity that South Africa is speaking about.

OM:  There has been serious paid attention to African art in the past few years. How do you view that?

SM:  It’s great, because the craft is there, the skill is there, the quality of the work is there. It was just that our work was considered less, and galleries weren’t looking to Africa as the next exciting space for art. In t recent years we have been trying to establish an identity, not just in Africa as Africans, but everyone around the world is suddenly now looking for that authenticity.

The Ticking Bomb. (From The Ancestor Series). 2016. Shweshwe (Three Cats Cotton), tulle, magazine clippings on paper. Aprox 40 x 40cm

OM: Do you think this burgeoning of African art has always been there and has just been discovered, or is there is a renaissance, an explosion of African expression that we are seeing now that we haven’t seen before?

SM:  I think it’s, it’s a little bit of both. They feed into each other. Artists like El Anatsui, who have been working for decades. And to give you an example of a South African artist, like William Kentridge, who I believe has been working around the same time, but their success levels are very different. Kentridge is revered and it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s a white male, and that itself has its own privilege that opened spaces for him that wouldn’t for a black artist. And they’re the younger artists who have been producing art in the last 20 years, especially around when apartheid started ending in South Africa and freedom of expression became more widely accepted. Then people started to be like, “I am going to express what is actually happening in South Africa and I don’t care what happens, because we have the constitution now which protects me, which says I have the right to freedom of speech and I can express myself in the form of artwork that isn’t harming the society or the people around me.”

OM: It seems that we’re seeing similar forms appearing in the African art we see in recent art fairs  in Europe and the U.S., such as photographing a person with an exotic background. Is that inspiration or copying?

SM:  Well, inspired, yes, and influenced, because I think no one makes work in a vacuum. That’s why you can always relate it to something.  That’s the beautiful thing about art history; you can chronologically go back and look at a history just in terms of like where visuals and everything {are} depicted. It’s influence. It’s sharing ideas. It’s because of all of the differences and the commonalities that we are all going through in this world. Sometimes, there is a confusion and people say, oh, everything in Africa is the same, because there seems to be a single narrative that the whole world has.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian writer, speaks about the danger of “a single story”. So, if you see one thing and were taught one thing your whole life, it becomes your reality. You start to believe. You can’t imagine anything else, and that’s the problem that the world has with Africa. Because they only see one.

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Diddy in semi-retirement from music

FILE – This Jan. 4, 2018 file photo shows Sean Combs participating in “The Four” panel during the FOX Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. The music mogul announced Monday that the hit series, where he discovered groups including platinum-sellers Danity Kane, would return to MTV in 2020. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs considers himself to be in “semi-retirement” from music.

The “I’ll Be Missing You” hitmaker has confessed he’s not actively making music at the moment, because if he was, he’d be on all the top ten records.

He said: “To be honest, I’ve been in semi-retirement. If you don’t see my name on all the Top 10 records, that means I’m not making music.”

And the 49-year-old rapper confesses he is “contemplating” if there is a role for him in music anymore.

After revealing he was bringing back his TV talent show search, “Making The Band”, back, he added to Rolling Stone magazine: “I’m contemplating, ‘Is there a role for me in music now?’ I just know that for me, I would only be able to sign legends.

To be honest, my decisions will be made through God. I’m at another frequency and level of music. It would have to be something that God fully put in my heart, like when I heard Biggie or I heard Mary [J. Blige].”

Meanwhile, Diddy previously confessed he is fed up that black artists are not being “invested” in.

Speaking in 2018, he said: “You have these record companies that are making so much money off our culture, our art form, but they’re not investing or even believing in us. For all the billions of dollars that these black executives have been able to make them, [there’s still hesitation] to put them in the top-level positions.

Diddy makes name change official and it’s all love

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is planning another name makeover after filing papers to legally change his moniker, and apparently he wants to be known as Sean ‘Love’ Combs and he is taking steps to drop his Sean John tag.

They’ll go and they’ll recruit cats from overseas. It makes sense to give [executives of colour] a chance and embrace the evolution, instead of it being that we can only make it to president, senior VP … There’s no black CEO of a major record company. That’s just as bad as the fact that there are no [black] majority owners in the NFL. That’s what really motivates me.”

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Op-Ed: After 66 Years, Arena Players Still Steals the Show

By Tabb Bishop and Larry Young
Special to the AFRO

Baltimore natives celebrate the accomplished entertainers who lived in their city, like Oprah Winfrey, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Jada Pickett Smith, and Charles Dutton. In a similar way, many places also made history, such as The Royal Theater, The Met, The Regent, and even Pennsylvania Avenue, which is now registered as a Black Arts and Entertainment District. Such lists put a glaring spotlight on Baltimore as a national landmark for Black arts, culture and entertainment. Modest in its beginnings, mighty in its mission, and major in its impact, the Arena Players Theater rightfully belongs in the city’s pantheon of legendary names that have made our community richer.

And it is easy to see why this exceptional playhouse remains the oldest continuously operating African-American community theater in the United States.

The Arena Players is a Baltimore institution that has been going strong for 66 years and counting. (Courtesy Photo)

Having opened for its 66th season this past September, Arena Players brings the sights, sounds and stories of Black theater to audiences looking for what can not be found on downtown stages. All of our shows are written, produced, directed, and acted by our own in a theater that we own. A 300 seat facility sitting just east of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in the Seton Hill neighborhood, the theater is a hub for minority performing arts community members to share their talents.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” “Pearlie,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “God’s Trombones” are just a few of the theatrical classics featuring homegrown talent. Over the decades, this small in size, but big in heart theater has exposed audiences to some of the nation’s best plays, but at a fraction of the cost found elsewhere. In addition, contemporary productions grace the Arena Players stage giving theater fans a range of options.

Many shows and actors make their debuts at Arena Players, where artists hope their careers will take off, perhaps even landing them on a Broadway stage. One such dream came true for 2019 Tony Award winner Andre De Shields, a Baltimore son who was trained at the theater.

“De Shields lit up the theater like a brilliant star during his recent visit with us,” said Larry Young, chair of the Arena Players Board of Directors and award-winning talk radio host. “We could sense his fond memories and great pride when we made him the recipient of the inaugural Arena Players’ ‘Ambassador of the Theater Award’,” he added.

Arena Players also serves as a community center where other activities take place. Promoters occasionally bring comedians and other shows to the theater. The Baltimore City Branch NAACP holds meetings there, and beginning this fall the theater will be home for an exciting STEM education after school program.

What began in 1953 with Arena Players founder Sam Wilson’s passion to start a community theater in a row house has developed into a showcase all Baltimoreans can embrace. “After moves from various locations, the theater finally settled at its current address during the tenure of former Mayor Donald Schaffer, whose help should not go unmentioned,” said Carl Stokes, a member of the board and former City Councilman shared.

To bring new conveniences and comfort to the theater’s present location at 801 McCullough Street, building renovations have been scheduled. In 2019 the theater began receiving state capital project support, and local funds are expected as well. Upgraded seats, and audio and lighting systems along with other renovations will be completed in 2020.

In the meantime, the 2019-2020 season schedule includes a variety of plays capable of satisfying all types of theatergoers. “You name it, and we have it for Black theater lovers,” expressed Donald Owens, the Artistic Director of Arena Players. “From gospels for the church community, to comedies for people who love to laugh, to drama for more serious types, and musicals for fans of that genre, we really do have quality shows for everyone,” he continued.

Supporting Black art forms is important. It helps bring people together, strengthen communities, and celebrate our achievements. Baltimoreans are fortunate to have Arena Players, which has not only lasted a long time, but has grown. 

Thanks to the presence of this accessible historic institution, anyone who wants a chance to enjoy Black theater with a grassroots mission need look no further. To make sure you see some of Baltimore’s best in Black performances, visit Arena Players’ website ( to purchase your tickets.

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The Death Issue: Edmondson’s Folly

Edmondson tombstoneImage Courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum

Bernice Williams’ tombstone is among the most venerable in American history, but her family didn’t want it.

The stone, which is currently in the archives at the Tennessee State Museum, was carved by William Edmondson. Born in Davidson County in the 1870s to formerly enslaved people, Edmondson came to art-making fairly late in life — in 1929, he heard a voice from God that told him to pick up his chisel and start carving a tombstone. And so he did. 

Edmondson portraitPhoto of William Edmondson by Louise Dahl-WolfeLess than 10 years later, Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The 1937 exhibit included a press release stating that Edmondson “has had no art training and very little education, and has probably never seen a piece of sculpture except his own.”

Edmondson’s creativity, he said, was entirely God-given. In an August 1981 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Edmondson is quoted as having said: “First He told me to make tombstones; then He told me to cut the figures. I do according to the wisdom of God. He gives me the mind and the hand, I suppose, and then I go ahead and carve these things.”

Edmondson began his art-making career by making tombstones for families in Nashville’s African American community and members of his congregation at the United Primitive Baptist Church. For these, Edmondson worked primarily with chunks of discarded limestone from demolished houses — the only material he could acquire inexpensively, or sometimes totally free of cost. The rectangular blocks were formerly used as sills, lintels, steps and curbs. The limestone material was relatively soft, which was a necessary quality for a sculptor like Edmondson who worked with a sledgehammer and improvised tools, including chisels he’d fashioned from railway spikes. The tools allowed him to make a variety of textures on his stone, from smooth skin to pitted dresses to wooly animals.

It’s with those tools that he likely made Bernice Williams’ gravemarker, which is part of a collection of Edmondson’s sculptures at the museum, along with a collection of Edmondson’s sculptures. The lamb on the top of the tombstone is similar to the sculptures Edmondson became famous for — in the master checklist from the 1937 exhibit, a piece titled “Lamb” was listed as having sold for $40. But the gravemarker is in excellent condition, simply because it was unwanted by the family who commissioned it.

“The supposition is that Edmondson had misjudged the size and spacing for his inscription,” says Jim Hoobler, the Tennessee State Museum’s senior curator of art and architecture. The birth date on the stone is 1906, but only the first three digits of that date are visible on its surface. The “6” appears on the side.

“It remained in [Edmondson’s] stone yard until his own death,” says Hoobler.

It’s particularly unfortunate that Edmondson’s own tombstone has been lost. Mt. Ararat Cemetery, where he was buried in 1951, lost its records to a fire. His legacy, however, is stronger than ever. In 2016, Edmondson’s sculpture “Boxer” set a new world record for any work of outsider art — it sold in an auction at Christie’s for $785,000.

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Artist uses light, space, sky and landscape

Coal Hollow

An environmental restoration is unfolding north of Chillicothe on the site of a former coal mine. Mike Contratto, center, works with park district employees and volunteers on a foot bridge at Coal Hollow Park. The bridge connects a new parking…

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New Smart Museum exhibition examines how Black artists ideas of respite

A still from Ja’Tovia Gary’s 2017 “Giverny I (Négresse Impériale),” Video, 06:18. (Courtesy the artist and galerie frank elbaz)

Staff writer

“Down Time: On the Art of Retreat” has opened at the Smart Museum of Art, examining how predominantly African American artists have conceptualized spaces of rest and respite through a show curated by 13 undergraduate and graduate University of Chicago students.

“This is an exhibition that grew out of a class this spring … called ‘Exhibition in Practice,’” said art history professor Leslie Wilson, who oversaw the project. “I divided the class into four groups at the beginning, and they each needed to make a proposal. They were thinking a lot with our permanent collection here.”

The students presented and worked through the proposals, attempting to find points of connection between them.

“That was the genesis for this particular show that focuses on the theme of retreat,” Wilson said. “At the core of this show is definitely how we can take time and space away from our everyday lives as well as extreme events, to kind of take care of ourselves.”

“Down Time” is grounded in the time-and-space concepts of here, elsewhere and beyond: “How we might be able to make retreat in places that are very close to us in our everyday lives and in things we pursue like vacation and other forms of travel,” Wilson said, “and then works that take us all the way into our imaginations.”

Artist Faith Ringgold’s painted quilt hangs prominently on one wall, in which an imagined Black woman pursues a creative life in France — as did figures such as Josephine Baker, James Baldwin and Nina Simone, who found more welcome there than they did in the United States.

The quilt collapses time and space: Ringold’s artist is joined by Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune who sit together amid sunflowers as Vincent van Gogh looks on beside them.

“It’s still an idealized world — it’s a France that really didn’t quite exist — but it’s one that many in the artists in the show, from Loïs Mailou Jones to Romare Bearden to Faith Ringgold to Ming Smith, had,” Wilson explained. “One of the things we’re actually trying to unpack a little bit around this was the ways in which African American artists were having a quite-distinct experience, where if you were a French colonial subject, you might actually have a more tense relationship to the metropole.”

Derrick Woods-Morrow, a North Carolina-born artist who works in Chicago, has three pieces in the show, two of which employ a reimagined “toile de Jouy” pattern of repeated idyllic, pastoral images on fabric.

“An idyllic truth to romanticize would be Black leisure,” he explained. The pattern comes from archived Jim Crow imagery, but the images he used as subject matter illustrations “do not directly show images of disenfranchised or enslaved Black folks or people who are suffering because of redlining and the way institutional racism continues to happen post-slavery.”

“Instead, throughout that same period of Jim Crow, I found images of Black people resting on beaches, Black people swimming, Black people sitting in parks and having picnics — happening exactly at the same times as the horrible atrocities we all should already know about, doing so, to show that these things were always deserved of Black people and in the future should be: just the ability to rest,” he said.

He said his work “particularly is looking at Black and queer bodies in spaces that they were allowed and not allowed to have retreat” — contemporary photographs of Southern Black queer people at rest hang within the toile frames.

“Down Time,” which runs through Dec. 15, is the first show of its kind at the Smart Museum, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. It was put on by the 2018-established Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, which was named in recognition of a $5 million gift from Joan and Robert Feitler to support developing curricular exhibitions through teaching and other student opportunities.

“Elevating student voices and student work in this way is something that we’re really excited, as an academic museum, to do,” said Assistant Curator of Academic Initiatives Berit Ness, who oversaw the project with Wilson.

Megan Carnrite, a student who took the class and helped curate the show, said, “It just felt nice as a student for our opinions and input to be valued. It felt like our contribution to the programming and the exhibition was significant, and we weren’t placated in our opinion-sharing. It felt sincere and genuine to be valuable contributors of the visitors and the crafters of the exhibition.”

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Baltimore Museum Of Art Remaking American Art History

The Baltimore Museum of Art doesn’t wish to renovate American art history by placing more black artists in leading roles. The BMA wants to take a wrecking ball to American art history, rebuilding it from the ground up with black artists serving as load-bearing walls.

Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art is its latest step in doing so.

“It’s about the need to write a new history, not simply including neglected artists in an old one,” Katy Siegel, Baltimore Museum of Art Senior Research and Programming Curator and Generations co-curator said. “(African-American artists) don’t belong ‘in’ a history that is already established, rather, they rewrite that history.”

The Generations exhibit draws inspiration from the personal art collection of Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida. The couple have collected work by black artists since 1999, focusing on abstraction.

For every obstacle that was typically placed in front of black artists, those working in abstraction faced even more.

“At different moments, artists felt the pressure from different quarters to represent a social identity over their artistic identity, or their individual presences,” Siegel said. “For Norman Lewis (featured in the exhibit), the pressure came in part from within himself as a political person during the Depression, World War II, and the Civil Rights Moment–the pressure to say something about these urgent conditions sometimes conflicted with his own wish for freedom as an artist.”

What business does an African-American artist have creating art for art’s sake when that talent could be applied to using art in fighting racism, bigoty, lynching, Jim Crow and every other indecency blacks faced?

Abstract art is a luxury. Black artists should be using their work to promote social justice.

Or so some thought.

Of the reasons why African-American artists were discouraged from abstraction, that’s the more palatable.

“Most broadly, as scholar Bridget Cooks writes in the Generations booklet, the mainstream, white art world did not see black artists, black Americans, as fully human, possessed of independent, creative selves capable of abstraction,” Siegel said.

The Generations catalog further quotes art historian Ann Gibson reinforcing this disturbing reality.

The heroism of the most vaunted abstract art was equated with the identity of its maker. In a society in which African-Americans were discounted socially and intellectually, individual black artists were by definition precluded from being celebrated, let alone regarded as ‘heroic.’

Ann Gibson, “Chapter 6: Painting Through Primitivism,” in Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997)

While leaning heavily on the Joyner/Giuffrida collection’s unparalleled holdings of works by black artists dating from the 1940s to the present day, the exhibition fills out its roster of more than 70 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media installations with works from the BMA’s permanent collection.

The names Mark Bradford, Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas, Leonardo Drew and Julie Mehretu aren’t likely to be as familiar to audiences as their white abstract contemporaries like Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly or Ellsworth Kelly, one look at the work on view in Generations shows they’ve earned that status.

Generations proves that to ignore the work of black artists is to accept an anemic version of American art history,” Cooks writes in the exhibit catalog. “Without engagement with this work, any version of American art would be a fallacy.”

The BMA’s attempt to present a more robust version of American art history extends beyond Generations with another exhibit, Every Day: Selections from the Collection, the BMA’s first reinstallation of its contemporary collection centered on black artistic imagination running through January 5, 2020.

“This effort occurs across our special exhibitions, collecting, and public programs,” Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director, said. “In this way, we can recognize historical shortcomings and provide our audiences with a richer, more vibrant and dynamic picture of art.”

Generations, co-organized by the BMA and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, is on view through January 19, 2020.

Additional time in Baltimore would be well spent at the Maryland Historical Society where a remarkable rediscovery takes center stage. Spectrum of Fashion puts on public display, for the first time as a stand-alone exhibit, MdHS’s extraordinary costume collection.

“The Maryland Historical Society Fashion Archive was born from the rediscovery of the museum’s costume collection, beginning in 2008,” Vice President of Collections at MdHS Allison Toleman explains. “For nearly 30 years, thousands of treasures, dating from the 18th century, remained in storage like a time capsule waiting to be reopened.”

MdHS regularly exhibited its costume collection from the 1940s through 1970s in the rooms of its then headquarters, the historic Enoch Pratt House. The last recorded exhibit there was 1970.

Later that decade, the collection was put away and meticulously cataloged by Enolliah Williams, a gallery assistant.

And forgotten.

Founded in 1844, MdHS was, for over a century, one of the only institutions in Maryland actively collecting clothing.

“This early and longstanding initiative provided the foundation on which the fashion archives now stands,” Toleman said. “When cleaning out their trunks and closets, people turned to MdHS to preserve not only their families’ clothing, but also the personal history inherently woven into the garments.”

In the United States, the 12,000-item collection is surpassed only by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s in New York.

Collection records indicate that MdHS began actively accepting gifts of costumes and accessories at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, early examples of clothing and accessories for women, men and children began to enter the collection, particularly examples dating from the Colonial and Federal eras. By the 1940s, costume was acquired annually and the collection began to grow exponentially, featuring pieces ranging from every day people to the Duchess of Windsor.

“Almost four decades ago, ‘Miss Nola’ took on the daunting task of organizing the costume collection,” Toleman said. “Patiently, she placed garments in boxes, organizing them by date and style.”

More than 10,000 items. Organized and cataloged by hand.

Williams created cards for the garments that recorded significant information about their history and condition.

“Miss Nola utilized the cabinets she could find, lining the drawers and then meticulously placed everything from buttons to lace in them,” Toleman said. “Her care and love of the collection shines through nearly four decades later.”

Williams began working at the museum in the early 1950s in the maintenance department; in 1959 she was named a gallery assistant. She held that position until retiring in 1985, continuing to volunteer at MdHS until 1992.

“The conservation project required of the collection was too large for the historical society to take on for many years,” according to Toleman. “A decade in the making, the exhibition and catalog for Spectrum of Fashion have been an enormous undertaking.”

You can see it through October 2020.

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Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas don’t want you comparing ‘Queen & Slim’ to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’

For “Queen & Slim,” screenwriter Lena Waithe’s meditation on race relations and police brutality, director Melina Matsoukas drew visual inspiration from sources as diverse as Alfonso Cuarón’s 2001 dramedy “Y Tu Mamá También” and Spike Lee’s 1989 classic “Do the Right Thing.” But the biggest influence came straight from YouTube.

“One of the key references for me has been real life, authentic struggles in the black community,” said Matsoukas, who makes her feature debut with the movie, in theaters on Thanksgiving. “I watched a lot of YouTube videos of black people being pulled over by the police or encountering law enforcement and it not necessarily ending well. Unfortunately, there are so many of those videos, but they were a major influence in how I wanted to approach shooting the opening scene.”

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith, our protagonists (known simply as Slim and Queen until the end) are forced on the run within the first 10 minutes of the movie. “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey pitched the idea for the opening to Waithe at a party.

“He was like, ‘Yo, I have this idea for a movie that I can’t write,’” she remembered. “And I was like ‘What’s that?’”


Frey described a scenario in which a black couple driving home from a first date are pulled over by a cop and forced to kill him in self-defense. “I was like, ‘You’re right, you shouldn’t write that,’” said Waithe. “But then we exchanged information. I think he thought he was never going to hear from or see me again, but it just stayed with me.”

She began drafting the story while working on a television project, partly in protest of the way she said she was undermined by the show’s executives.

“I was sort of dismissed and told, ‘You’re no longer needed, we’ll take it from here,’” said Waithe. “And during the course of my time on that show while my hands were tied, I wrote ‘Queen & Slim,’ so it’s really a sweet victory to me.”

Matsoukas and Waithe first worked together on the critically acclaimed “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None,” for which Waithe shared an Emmy for comedy writing. When considering Matsoukas for “Queen & Slim,” Waithe said she didn’t even realize it would be the director’s first foray into feature-length films (despite an extensive resume of TV and music video work, including HBO’s “Insecure” and Beyoncé’s “Formation”). “I just had an inkling, and my gut told me it was her,” she said.


“It was everything I had been looking for for my first feature,” said Matsoukas. “It was provocative, it was political, it was an opportunity, I felt, to move the culture forward.

“I don’t like my relationships with people to dictate the material that I work on. But it was just good. It was a good, entertaining script that I could not put down.”

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Slim and Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen in Universal’s “Queen & Slim.”

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Slim and Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen in Universal’s “Queen & Slim,” from director Melina Matsoukas and writer Lena Waithe.

(Universal Pictures)

After Kaluuya broke out with “Get Out” and continued to steal scenes in “Black Panther” and “Widows,” it’s hard to imagine the actor not being shortlisted for the role. When Matsoukas got the script, he was already tentatively attached — much to her chagrin.

“He had spoken to Lena and read the script before I had a chance to, and he really wanted to play Slim,” she said. “She wouldn’t give him the role before making sure that that was a choice I wanted to make, and it wasn’t. I did not want Daniel to play Slim at first.”

Still, she decided to sit down with the Oscar-nominated actor to get his sense of the character. “I only knew of him from ‘Get Out,’ and the person he plays in ‘Get Out’ is not Slim,” said Matsoukas. “I agreed to meet with him because of Lena, and what should’ve been a very quick coffee turned into an extremely long conversation and hopefully a lifelong friendship and working relationship.”

After finding their Slim, the filmmakers relished the opportunity to break a new voice by casting Turner-Smith as Queen.

“It’s an opportunity we obviously don’t get a lot and we really wanted somebody that was fresh and new,” said Matsoukas. “It was quite a challenge, because we had an incredibly experienced actor and incredible talent in Daniel, and we wanted to team him up with somebody who didn’t have as much experience.”


Much early discussion around the film has labeled it the black “Bonnie and Clyde,” and a comparison of the characters to the real life outlaws is made in the movie itself. Still, the filmmakers rankle at using the title of the 1967 classic as cinematic shorthand.

“I think it’s a really simplistic and diminishing way to talk about our film,” said Matsoukas. “I don’t really agree with basing black films on any white archetype. I think there’s a huge difference in who Queen and Slim are. They’re not criminals on the run, they’re two very human people who have a shared experience that was not their choice. I think that’s a very critical difference between them.”

Waithe describes the movie as “protest art,” calling it her contribution to “the culture,” in the same vein as works by James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry and Toni Morrison.

“I think for me, there’s no greater weapon than my laptop,” she said. “I come from the church of Nina Simone, in that it is our job as artists to reflect the times. And by that, anything a black person writes is political. How could it not be? Whenever I’m being black and free and saying the things I want to say, that is a form of revolution.

“Some black art is watered down for white audiences. And the truth is, with white [stuff], you don’t have to do that. Look at ‘Fleabag.’ Look at ‘Better Things.’ Look at any white movie that’s been nominated for an Academy Award. But what I felt in movies like ‘Menace II Society,’ it literally does not care about the white audience at all. Those kinds of films always speak to me in a different way, where I feel seen. Those are the movies that really inspire me.”

At the same time, the filmmakers are quick to clarify that “Queen & Slim” is intended for audiences of all stripes.

“Obviously, we made it as a meditation on the black experience, and I hope that black audiences really appreciate that it was told for them,” said Matsoukas. “But I also think that in order to create change, we have to make people uncomfortable. So for me, it’s important that everybody sees this and that we create empathy for each other. In order to create change there needs to be real dialogue, and I hope we can be a small part of that conversation.”

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Finding the 1970s L.A. of Rudy Ray Moore’s ‘Dolemite’

When I set out for the Dunbar Hotel in Historic South-Central, I didn’t expect to wind up sitting on the curb hooked up to an EKG monitor. About 10 minutes prior, while crossing the street at a pedestrian crosswalk, I was clipped by a white mini-van. I was tossed to the ground; I rolled over and safely got to the sidewalk. Luckily, neither the driver nor I sustained any serious injuries, but my new Nikon was totaled. Unfortunate as it was, it actually demonstrates why the makers of the new Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name didn’t shoot at the hotel, which is perhaps the most important location in the lore of comedian-turned-action movie star, Rudy Ray Moore.

“It had to have streets that you could close down for long periods of time because so much action took place in the streets,” explains Dolemite Is My Name location manager David Lyons. The area around the Dunbar is so congested that it would’ve been nearly impossible to control (or park trucks and trailers nearby). Apparently, traffic in this area won’t stop for a movie—or a pedestrian, as the paramedics and cops informed us, and I now know all too well.

Over two afternoons, I went on a ride-along with Lyons to visit a number of locations from Dolemite Is My Name, in which Eddie Murphy plays Moore during his rise from struggling comedian and assistant record store manager to the creative force behind 1975’s Dolemite, a film that made Moore one of the most well known actors in African American cinema.

It’s clear from our first meeting that Lyons and I are kindred spirits in a handful of ways. As teenagers, we both discovered Moore by browsing VHS covers at our local video stores. Lyons, 43, and his friends gravitated to a section called Black Action. “For my money, there was no other section in the video store; that is all we needed,” he says. For Lyons, Dolemite was his first foray into Moore; for me, it was Disco Godfather (1979), or as Lyons and I remember it being titled, The Avenging Disco Godfather.

Dolemite—the story of a rhyming and jiving Los Angeles pimp and nightclub owner who is released early from prison to help law enforcement crack down on neighborhood crime and Dolemite’s rival, Willie Green (D’Urville Martin)—left a lasting impression on Lyons. “It was foul-mouthed for no reason, and there were boobs in it for no reason other than it was funny,” says Lyons. “I think initially I just got into it because I was 14 and it was a funny guy swearing a lot, but as I got older, I realized what I loved about it so much was that idea of just making movies with your friends, which is what my friends and I were doing at the time.”

It’s no coincidence that Dolemite Is My Name was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the screenwriters behind Ed Wood (1994), which also focuses on a ragtag group of outliers making their own films.

Lyons is a dedicated locations nerd just like me. He started seeking out filming locations when he first moved to L.A. in 2003. “There’s so much to do [in L.A.], especially if you have money. I did not have any money, so I started entertaining myself by going and finding film locations. And one of the first films I sought out was Dolemite…Well, Dolemite and Double Indemnity.” Lyons started working his way through the ranks from production assistant to assistant location manager, and eventually stepping up to the position of location manager when, in 2009, he accepted the job on NBC’s Community.

my name is dolemite la locations
Location manager David Lyons at an original Dolemite filming location

Jared Cowan

Being a big Rudy Ray Moore fan, Lyons couldn’t believe it when got a call from producer Michael Beugg about possibly working as the location manager on Dolemite Is My Name. Lyons remembers the producer saying, “ ‘Are you familiar with a comedian named Rudy Ray Moore?’ I just thought it was my friend screwing with me.” When Lyons asked the person on the other end of the line to repeat his name, the location manager knew it had to be the real thing because, he says, “my friends weren’t that clever to come up with something that specific.” Lyons began listing numerous factoids about Moore and his career: he lived in and made his movies at the Dunbar Hotel, his friends worked as the cast and crew, and Moore was in his late 40s when he made Dolemite. “I feel like Beugg thought I was screwing with him because nobody should know that much about Dolemite,” says Lyons. “Imagine the biggest inside joke with your closest friends of 35 years, then they make a movie about it and you get to be part of it.”

Lyons was at first hired to do a couple weeks worth of scouting around L.A. He started working on what he considered to be the most difficult locations: the Chitlin’ Circuit, a series of performance venues throughout the South, Midwest, and East Cost where African American artists and entertainers could perform in a safe environment during some of the most racially segregated times in modern American history. Venues could range from actual theaters to makeshift setups in barns.

“I think there was a real consideration of, do we need to take part of this movie on the road,” says Lyons. “Are we going to need to go to Louisiana and Mississippi and see him driving through these corn fields or cotton fields or tobacco fields to explain what part of the country they’re in?”

Lyons showed producers photos of Greenfield Ranch in Thousand Oaks, a popular filming location previously used as the main setting in 2011’s We Bought a Zoo. Lyons also presented Front Street in Norwalk, which he originally scouted for East Texas in 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War. “Front Street in Norwalk [had been] the main street. And then after a while the train tracks came through and then they built Firestone Boulevard and that became the main drag. So Front Street became the back street and nobody did anything to it.” The locations proved that the entirety of Dolemite Is My Name could be shot in the L.A. region and that Lyons was the person to do the job.

Location scout photo of Front Street in Norwalk

There was also a strong desire to shoot at real L.A. locations that Moore frequented, and locations where Dolemite was filmed. “But 42 years later, it doesn’t always work,” says Lyons.

The Californian Club, where Moore debuted and developed the character of Dolemite, was among the most crucial. “That was what I would call a precious location because it is where Dolemite was born,” says Lyons. “It’s where Rudy begins to change his life. And it was a real place, and we knew what that real place looked like. We knew how important it was to our story, and to Rudy’s story. You want to get that just right.”

Originally located at the corner of Santa Barbara Avenue (today Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) and St. Andrews Place, the Californian Club is a Laundromat today.

dolemite californian club
The location of the real Californian Club

Jared Cowan

“We must have looked at 50 different places for that,” says Lyons. “We were running out of locations that could look like 1974, Los Angeles.” Lyons remembers production designer, Clay Griffith, suggested Flamenco nightclub El Cid on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. Filmmaker D.W. Griffith originally constructed the building as a screening room at the turn of the 20th century. The director also used the property to shoot portions of his controversial film, The Birth of a Nation (1915). By 1925, the building was turned into the Jail Café, a prison-themed restaurant that greeted customers with a stone prison wall on Sunset Boulevard. From the early ‘30s to the early ‘60s, the venue operated as a theater and in 1962 it reopened as El Cid.

The filmmakers loved the red vinyl booths at El Cid, as well as the antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. “It’s the kind of thing that people put up in the ’50s to look fancy,” says Lyons. “And by the time it got to the 70s, they looked old then. So now that we’re looking at them in 2019 they really look dated and that’s the fun thing about doing a period piece. You’re looking for 1974, but you’re not just looking for 1974, you’re looking for anything earlier than 1974.”

El Cid

Jared Cowan

The exterior of The Californian Club was doubled at the nearby 4100 Bar.

Also along the Sunset corridor, Los Globos was used for the interior of a Tallahassee bar on the Chitlin’ Circuit where Rudy meets one of the stars of his filmmaking troupe, Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). The club continues the red vinyl motif, but its low ceiling suggests a smaller venue that Rudy could play on the circuit.

Los Globos

Jared Cowan

Lyons says that a majority of location reps were not familiar with Moore, but that recognition also varied from neighborhood to neighborhood. “I think when I went to El Cid, they’d heard of Dolemite, but maybe the younger folks that run the club had heard about it…in a hip hop song,” says Lyons. Also known as “the Godfather of Rap,” Moore’s work has been sampled or quoted in songs by artists like 2 Live Crew, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who also appears in Dolemite Is My Name. “There’s a divide in racial recognition because Rudy Ray Moore was such an icon in the black community,” says Lyons. “I would say maybe about 20 percent of the locations were like, ‘Oh, wait, wait. Are you talking about Dolemite?’ And then you share a smile.”

One location where the owners were familiar with Moore was in Pasadena, “which the Beach Boys sing about,” says Lyons, ironically. Doubling for the famous Central Avenue district record shop, Dolphin’s of Hollywood, was Poo-Bah Records on Colorado Boulevard. “I came here and they’re like, ‘Shit. Yeah man. Dolemite.’”

Roj (Snoop Dogg) and Rudy in the Dolphin’s of Hollywood DJ booth


Poo-Bah Records

Jared Cowan

Moore worked as an assistant manager at Dolphin’s of Hollywood, which was originally opened in 1948 by African American businessman and independent record label owner and producer, John Dolphin. Dolphin’s of Hollywood, which was extremely popular for live broadcasts out of its DJ booth, closed in 1989 and is today a nail salon.

Lyons looked at a number of record stores throughout Hollywood, Highland Park and San Pedro. “I wanted a place that, first of all, could feel like it was in the 1970s, but also as a guy who’s a big vinyl collector, the record store isn’t just a place to go and get a record,” says Lyons. Poo-Bah, he adds, “fit the vibe of a place where people would come and hang out and talk about music, which I think is a big part of the heart of the movie, with Rudy and all his friends getting together and talking about filmmaking or making music together.” It didn’t hurt that Lyons also once purchase a Rudy Ray Moore record at Poo-Bah years before working on Dolemite Is My Name.

The film’s art department built a DJ booth into the rear section of the store and enclosed an existing balcony. A significant amount of the film’s set, including the DJ booth, is still standing at Poo-Bah Records. “That speaks volumes of this place, that once we were done with it, they looked around and said, ‘Yeah, this is how it was supposed to look,’ and kept it.”

Dolemite Is My Name shot at 89 locations over 44 days. Occasionally, the production was shooting three or four locations a day in places like Charlie’s Live Entertainment strip club in South L.A., Mandy’s Family Restaurant in Hawthorne and the Prince restaurant in Koreatown. The Gardena Cinema, a single-screen movie theatre since 1946, doubled for Indianapolis’s Uptown Theatre, where Moore first screened Dolemite to a paying audience. The red carpet premiere of Dolemite was filmed at the Orpheum Theatre on Broadway. Its neon-lined marquee is reminiscent Chicago’s long-gone Woods Theatre, where Dolemite actually premiered. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the Orpheum was also used for the interiors of the Plan 9 from Outer Space premiere as depicted in Ed Wood (1994).

Location scout photo of Mandy’s Family Restaurant

Julie Karelitz

Most challenging to pinpoint would be two original Dolemite locations intended for recreating scenes from the 1975 film. One was a Spanish Mission style house used in a flashback which sees Dolemite performing unpolished kung fu moves on three FBI agents; the other, a school driveway that played as a prison exterior for Dolemite’s early release. The locations could have been doubled elsewhere, but both had eluded Lyons since moving to L.A., and finding them for Dolemite Is My Name became an obsession.

Beginning with a VHS copy of Dolemite, Lyons started looking for any clues that would point him in the direction of the house, which is a location I attempted to find five years ago for an article about cult movie locations. Based on an address Lyons glanced in the film, along with the type of architecture, he had a good idea of where to drop the little yellow guy on Google Earth. Hours and hours he spent trying to locate it, with no luck. It wasn’t until he got the Dolemite Blu-ray that he realized he mistook one number in the address for another. It turned out was looking four blocks north than where he should have been searching. “It was two in the morning, I was on Google Earth and I found it and I just gasped,” said Lyons. “I started emailing people that night like, ‘Well, we’ve got to get this to the director [Craig Brewer]; we’ve got to give this to the production designer; got to get this to Larry and Scott. Guys, I found the fucking house.’ And then the next step is, will they let us film there?”

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is assaulted by FBI agents

Xenon Pictures

Recreating the scene in Dolemite Is My Name


The Dolemite house

Jared Cowan

The current owner of the home in Mid-City was aware of the Dolemite connection because the previous owner, who was a kid when Dolemite filmed there, informed him of it when the keys were turned over. Lyons says, “The first time I took [Brewer] to the real Dolemite house, I took a photo of him from behind him, in silhouette, looking at the house and he’s just standing there with his hands on his hips and he turns around and he’s like, ‘You motherfucker. You found it.’ ” Lyons adds that Murphy, a huge Rudy Ray Moore fan, had the same sense of awe when first stepping foot at the Dolemite house. “He looked out the window [of the van], and he stepped out and he was just looking around, hands on his hips, kind of shaking his head.”

The school location was Lyons’s “white whale,” he says. He had nothing much to go on except a gate enclosing a school parking lot and a house across the street. “I just couldn’t find it until one night I was in the office really late. I noticed this little cul-de-sac I hadn’t seen before and I dropped the little guy on Google Earth. Holy shit. There it was.” Reaching the end of Johnnie Cochran Vista outside Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School, I share the same sentiment as we pull up at the gate where Moore stripped down to his underwear and changed into one of his signature Dolemite suits. Unfortunately, due to contractual restrictions the school couldn’t be used in the film, but Lyons found a suitable double in the Long Beach school district.

Dolemite’s car pulls up to the prison gate

Xenon Pictures

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School

Jared Cowan

Lyons and I soon arrive at the Dunbar Hotel, arguably the single most important location in the story of Rudy Ray Moore. Completed in 1928, the Dunbar originally opened as the Hotel Somerville and was built to host the first West Coast conference of the NAACP. After its first year, the hotel was renamed the Dunbar after poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar. For decades, the luxury hotel was the epicenter of black culture in Los Angeles. Located in the heart of the Central Avenue jazz scene, artists such as Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Count Basie stayed and/or performed there. Ironically, the hotel at Central Avenue and 42nd Place, which rose to fame during the decades of the most extreme racial segregation in America, began to deteriorate when racial barriers started to fall. In 1974, the building was shuttered and became a haven for junkies. In exchange for clearing out transients and acting as a caretaker of the Dunbar, Moore was allowed access to the building and immediately put it to good use as an unsanctioned movie studio. Moore also lived in the hotel without running water or electricity.

The Dunbar

Jared Cowan

The Dunbar, which is a prominently featured setting in Dolemite Is My Name, unfortunately was not a viable option for filming. Aside from it being located on a busy commercial street, the Dunbar was completely restored and reopened in 2013 as a 55-and-over apartment building. Though much of the building’s original integrity was maintained, a number of scenes were set in the hotel lobby and would have caused an inconvenience for the tenants. Further complicating matters, a contemporary Southern & Mexican fusion restaurant also resides in the building’s corner commercial space.

Instead, a lobby set inspired by the real location was constructed at Los Angeles Center Studios.

The Dunbar lobby

Jared Cowan

The recreated set of the Dunbar lobby


The exterior of the Dunbar was doubled at the Royal Lake apartments on the corner of 11th Street and Lake Street in Pico-Union. The size of the building is comparable to the Dunbar; archways along the street level are reminiscent of some of the architecture found at the hotel. The fact that it was also on streets that were controllable made it the go-to choice. “We were able to close down the streets all around it for days at a time without impacting neighboring residents too much,” says Lyons. In fact, most of the neighborhood embraced the production, he adds. “If that building was on Central and 42nd, we wouldn’t be able to film there,” says Lyons.

Sitting on the curb outside Dunbar, medical equipment wires hanging off of me, it’s clear I learned that the hard way.

Location scout photo of the Royal Lake apartments

Julie Karelitz

 Dolemite Is My Name is now streaming on Netflix. Please keep in mind that some of these locations are on private property. Do not trespass or disturb the owners. Follow Jared on Twitter at @JaredCowan1.

RELATED: Take a Tour of the Most Memorable ‘Pulp Fiction’ Filming Locations 25 Years Later

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