Artist and Gallerist Dale Brockman Davis Reflects on the Watts Uprising

Situated in historic Leimert Park, a nondescript commercial building plays host to the Art + Practice space – a contemporary exhibition program dedicated to artists-in-residence, which provides studio space for influential local artists.

Among the artists-in-residences is Dale Brockman Davis, a multidisciplinary artist, curator, activist, and educator. His work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions, galleries and contemporary art spaces that include the Hammer Museum, the Watts Tower Arts Center, and the California African American Museum. Yet, Davis may be best known for his contribution to Leimert Park with the historic Brockman Gallery – a cultural institution that lasted 20 years and provided a platform for African American artists and other artists of color. Today, the Brockman space has been inhabited with a newcomer to the area, the Papillion Gallery.

Davis and his brother, Alonzo founded the venue in 1967 during an era of activism following the Watts uprising, and coinciding with the nation’s burgeoning civil rights movement. His role in the Leimert Park’s cultural epicenter created new opportunities for African American artists to showcase their work – many of them went on to have robust careers, including David Hammons, Noah Purifoy, Elizabeth Catlett, Betye Saar.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts uprising, Artbound met with Davis to reflect on the origins of the Brockman Gallery, the cultural landscape of South L.A., and the effects the discord had on the area’s artistic communities.

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