South of Pico

African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 93 illustrations (incl. 32 in Published: April 2017

Author: Kellie Jones

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Cultural Studies

Named a Best Art Book of 2017 by the New York Times and Artforum

In South of Pico Kellie Jones explores how the artists in Los Angeles's black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.'s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Noah Purifoy, and Senga Nengudi spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.'s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility. Jones characterizes their works as modern migration narratives that look to the past to consider real and imagined futures. She also attends to these artists' relationships with gallery and museum culture and the establishment of black-owned arts spaces. With South of Pico, Jones expands the understanding of the histories of black arts and creativity in Los Angeles and beyond. 


"[A] deeply researched, panoramic depiction of how black artists made not only great art, but their own art world in Los Angeles during two crucial decades.... Quite simply, the history, not just of art in Los Angeles, but of modern American art generally will have to be reconceived on the basis of South of Pico and Now Dig This!." — Barry Schwabsky, Hyperallergic

"South of Pico is a testament to the pioneers of African–American art in the twentieth century, who forged new paths to liberation and selfhood through their work. Jones shows how these artists pushed against their own obliteration, and generated a zeal for change that would escalate into the 1980s, 1990s and beyond." — Rachel Hurn, Studio Museum

"Jones's book is a timely reminder that the United States has seen massive internal displacement within living memory and could again. But, more important, it's also a credible affirmation that from such sudden, painful movements something new and whole might yet be made." — Gary Dauphin, Artforum

"Both a scholarly triumph and a fascinating read, this book provides the backstory for some of the most consequential artists to emerge from the Black Arts Movement and examines the work, projects, and initiatives they fostered." — Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type

"South of Pico is of broad use to the field of contemporary art history, from specialists to undergraduate students in advanced survey courses. . . . One of the most urgent if unanticipated demands for which Jones’s study may be useful is the increasing problem in Los Angeles of gentrification and the intra-urban migrations it forces. If gentrification is enabled by ignorance of the relationship between geography and cultural history, Jones’s book might be deployed by contemporary cultural and social activists as a weapon against forgetting and for the continued protection of the material and immaterial cultural heritage that is sited in one of the city’s most significant areas—south of Pico." — Natilee O. Harren, CAA Reviews

“Kellie Jones fills a gaping void in the encyclopedia of art in America.” — Jill Moniz, Western Historical Quarterly

"A touchstone for future scholars and readers with current investments in how narratives of black artists and the history of American art are written." — Bridget R. Cooks, Art Journal

"Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as housing and employment politics, South of Pico shows how the work of Black Angeleno artists . . . spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.'s urban renewal, and restrictions on Black mobility." — Journal of Pan African Studies

"South of Pico is stunningly broad ranging and critically detailed in its peopling of a movement and in its thorough close reading and contextualizing of art practice and objects." — Stephanie Leigh Batiste, Journal of American History

"South of Pico presents a finely detailed picture of the black art community as it emerged in 1960s Los Angeles and struggled to gain the means of self-representation." — Ken D. Allan, Art Bulletin

"Thanks to Jones's relentless efforts to provide go-to comparisons, there is now absolutely no reasons why any classroom lecture or museum exhibition on American modernism should lack examples of Black artists.' — Miguel de Baca, Art History

"Born of decades of research as well as her award-winning exhibition Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980, this brilliant book by Kellie Jones narrates the rise of this African American art world. Examining the migration of black visual artists to Los Angeles, she discloses the geography of artistic invention against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Black Power and arts activism, and violent unrest. With this volume, Professor Jones has authored a nuanced and essential history of African American art in the West." — Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“A gifted and original scholar, Kellie Jones offers unique and stimulating insights into the role L.A.’s close-knit African American artists and communities played in creating art spaces in museums, cultural centers, and storefronts. South of Pico is broad in scope, tracing the narratives of oft-neglected artists, exploring the contributions of women artists and feminist visual theory, and highlighting the history of collecting by Hollywood movie stars and entertainers. Wonderfully innovative and extraordinarily researched, South of Pico is a foundational study for western American art.” — Deborah Willis, author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kellie Jones, a 2016 recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant," is Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia University and the author of several books, including EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art, also published by Duke University Press. Jones has curated numerous national and international exhibitions, including Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980 and Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction. South of Pico: Migration, Art, and Black Los Angeles  1
1. Emerge: Putting Southern California on the Art World Map  23
2. Claim: Assemblage and Self-Possession  67
3. Organize: Building an Exhibitionary Complex  139
4. In Motion: The Performative Impulse  185
Conclusion. Noshun: Black Los Angeles and the Global Imagination  265
Notes  277
Selected Bibliography  359
Index  379
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Kellie Jones is the recipient of the inaugural Award for Excellence in Diversity Award, presented by the College Art Association

Winner, 2018 Walter & Lillian Lowenfels Criticism Award, American Book Award, presented by the Before Columbus Foundation

Honored by ArtNews as one of the Best Art Books of the Decade

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