John Outterbridge: The Rag Factory
LAXART Galleries One and Two and LAXART Billboard
Guest Curated by Kris Kuramitsu

September 10-October 22, 2011
Opening Reception: September 10, 2011, 7-9pm
Artist-Curator Talk: September 10, 2011, 6pm

Billboard on view September 26-October 22nd, 2011
La Cienega Blvd. between Washington and Venice Boulevards

On the occasion of Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980, LAXART is pleased to present The Rag Factory, a newly commissioned, site-specific installation by John Outterbridge (b.1933), an influential artist who has been living and working in Los Angeles for over 40 years. Widely acknowledged as a sculptor and installation artist affiliated with the California Assemblage movement, Outterbridge is also well known as a community organizer—namely, for his role as the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center from 1975-1992. Outterbridge has been a teacher and mentor to many artists and community activists, and while his influence on the cultural landscape of Los Angeles is immense, his artistic practice has not received the attention that other members of his generation have received, particularly in recent years.

For his exhibition at LAXART that encompasses both gallery spaces, the outer entry wall, and a public billboard, Outterbridge will create a new installation inspired by the humblest of materials – rags. Primarily using found rags scavenged from the streets of LA and materials from a rag-processing factory Downtown, Outterbridge offers an experiential meditation on the physical, economic and social resonance of these remnants in his most ambitious installation in years. Grounded in the formal language of assemblage, Outterbridge’s installation expands this artist’s aesthetic investigations as the gallery becomes a site to be treated with techniques and processes he helped pioneer more than twenty years ago. His keen interest in materiality takes on multiple dimensions in this installation that expand his project beyond formal concerns. Through a production process that included scavenging and negotiating with industrial manufacturers, Outterbridge unearths informal economies of labor, exposing the complex social dynamics that sustain the city. In conjunction with the installation in the gallery, Outterbridge has also produced a site-specific billboard on La Cienega Blvd. between Washington and Venice Boulevards that will be in conversation with his project in the galleries and the broader public.
This exhibition marks the launch of LAXART’s programming as part of the region-wide Pacific Standard Time initiative and celebrates Outterbridge’s work as a pillar of our creative community.

Outterbridge came to Los Angeles in 1963 after completing art school in Chicago and began a socially inflected sculptural practice, using ordinary and found objects as the basis for his work. His creative community included many important African American artists in the city like Melvin Edwards, Senga Nengudi, Noah Purifoy, Bettye Saar and David Hammons and extended to multiple communities. In the 70s, he began shifting his time and energy towards being an advocate for African Americans and African American culture in Watts and the Los Angeles region in general, so his sculptural production tapered until his retirement in the early 1990s. John Outterbridge's work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Los Angeles 1955-1985 at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Sao Paolo Biennial; INSITE 94 in San Diego/Tijuana; and 40 Years of California Assemblage at the UCLA Wight Art Gallery, among others. The most comprehensive exhibition of his work took place in 1993 at the African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

This exhibition at LAXART marks John Outterbridge’s first solo show in Los Angeles in fifteen years.

Special Thanks to Acme Wiping Materials, Los Angeles and Willie Middlebrook.

LAXART’s programs are made possible with the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Danielson Foundation, the G.L. Waldorf Family Fund, The Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs, and DEPART Foundation.

John Outterbridge’s exhibition is made possible with the generous support of V. Joy Simmons, MD, Alison Swan, Helen Lewis, Jack Tilton, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA).


Pacific Standard Time is an unprecedented collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Initiated through grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time will take place for six months beginning October 2011.

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