LOS ANGELES — A new bronze sculpture by Kehinde Wiley of a 21st-century African woman on horseback, part of his popular series that radically updates Confederate war memorials, is headed to South Los Angeles. The city’s cultural affairs department voted Wednesday to approve the placement of Wiley’s artworks, along with six others, in a 1.3-mile, $100 million cultural corridor under development. Called Destination Crenshaw, this piece is dedicated to bringing black art and design to new outdoor communal spaces.
These artworks, by Wiley, Charles Dickson, Melvin Edwards, Maren Hassinger, Artis Lane, Alison Saar and Brenna Youngblood, are expected to be installed by the end of next year. The plan is to commission at least 100 sculptures, murals and other works of art by 2027, creating “the largest public art exhibition of black artists in this country,” said Jason Foster, Destination Crenshaw’s president and chief operating officer.
Destination Crenshaw, a non-profit organization, has received a mix of public and private funding. So far, it has raised $61.5 million from an expected $100 million, including a $3 million grant announced this week by the Getty Foundation. The Getty has also pledged support for the preservation of public art.
Foster, on the project’s website, stated: “Destination Crenshaw is a black design for Black LA.” The idea of an economic development project rooted in black culture arose from concerns that pending Metro light rail line, built on the ground floor for this section of Crenshaw Boulevard, would disrupt small businesses. The initiative has enabled grants for local businesses and will bring both greenery and art to the area to attract pedestrians, with the planting of 822 trees and the creation of 10 new pocket parks designed by the company. Perkins & Will.
For example, Wiley’s monument will appear in the newly created Sankofa Park on the northern edge of the corridor. An earlier bronze from the same series, “Rumors of War,” featuring a young black man in a hoodie on horseback, was unveiled with much fanfare in Times Square in 2019 before being moved to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In a twist this time, the heroic horseman will be a woman.
For the same park, Hassinger creates a pink fiber optic sphere and plants LED lighting with motion sensors around it to make the image appear lively or alert. Nearby will be Dickson’s large stainless steel sculpture of three senufo ritual figures under a canopy of cars, honoring the dealers who used to be in Crenshaw and the lowrider culture still alive today. The artist’s plan is to hire local bodyshops to paint the cars in different colors.
Further south, Saar creates a pair of 13-meter-high bronze sculptures, male and female, with huge hairstyles or “conks” rising several meters. She makes her hair from a mix of found objects that appeal to local creativity, such as a trumpet and a frying pan.
Participating artists live or work in Los Angeles or have done so for at least five years, said Joy Simmons, the project’s lead art consultant. She said 30 other artists are shortlisted for future commissions and will be invited to submit proposals.