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Cherry and Martin: Carl Cheng | Black is Beautiful: Empowerment Through the Lens of Kwame Brathwaite, 1962 - 1975 - 21 May 2016 to 30 July 2016

Current Exhibition

21 May 2016 to 30 July 2016
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm or by appt
Cherry and Martin
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd
2732 S. La Cienega Blvd
CA 90034
Los Angeles, CA
North America
T: +1 310.559.0100

Carl Cheng
May 21 - July 30, 2016
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.

Artists in this exhibition: Carl Cheng, Kwame Brathwaite

Carl Cheng

May 21 - July 30, 2016 | 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Opening reception: Saturday, May 21, 6-8pm

Cherry and Martin is proud to present Carl Cheng’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. For more than five decades, Carl Cheng (b,. 1942) has produced pioneering works in a range of media, exploring as critic Mark Johnstone writes, “technology and nature as levers, one applied to the other, in order to discover and reveal the beautiful wonders of each.”

Carl Cheng began his studies in art and design at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1958. There he worked with professors like Don Chipperfield, who emphasized material exploration, problem-solving and cross-pollination. In 1964, Cheng received a fellowship to study at the Folkwang School of Art in Essen, Germany. In Essen, Cheng experienced a post-Bauhaus pedagogy that placed art and design in a context that included dance, theater and music. Cheng's experience in Germany also gave him his first exposure to life outside Southern California, as well as a viewpoint on racial and cultural politics in the United States that has stayed with him his entire life. When Carl Cheng returned to UCLA in 1965, he began graduate work in sculpture, and also studied with Robert Heinecken, who had only just established the photography department at the school. At UCLA, Carl Cheng worked alongside fellow students like Pat O’Neill, with whom he shared a studio and has often exhibited. 

In the mid-60’s Cheng began experimenting with fabricating plastic as a basis of making sculpture and photography. His “Landscape Essay” (1966) presents Malibu’s Point Mugu as an unstable and serial location. “V.H.” (1966) is a molded plastic and photographic sculptural film piece that critiques the treatment of America’s veterans during the early years of the Vietnam War. In 1970, Cheng was one of only a handful of Los Angeles-based artists to be included in curator Peter Bunnell’s landmark 1970 Museum of Modern Art exhibition, “Photography into Sculpture,” described in its original wall text as “the first comprehensive survey of photographically formed images used in a sculptural or fully dimensional manner.” 

Carl Cheng’s work could have easily been included in two other important shows of the period -- “Software” (Jewish Museum) and “Information” (Museum of Modern Art) — both of which appeared in New York the same year as “Photography into Sculpture.” Cheng has long-questioned the role of individuals in a mass media society driven by corporate interests: his registered entity, John Doe Co., which he established in 1967, has served as a means to engage with and at the same time critique corporate culture. Cherry and Martin’s exhibition will include a range of ephemera related to John Doe Co. John Doe Co. promotional images, literature and product reports detail and advertise the various aspects of Cheng’s artworks and ‘nature machines’ -’ like “Table Model Specimen Viewer” (1970). They work to embed them in the absurdist visual discourse of American consumerism, which Cheng continues to question in his art of the present day.

John Doe Co. ’nature machines' - several of which will be on view in the Cherry and Martin exhibition - serve, as Cheng writes, to “model nature, its processes and effects for a future environment that may be completely made by humans.” “Erosion Machine” (1969) is a microwave sized mechanism, built from both handmade and off-the-shelf materials, that subjects a human-made rock (plaster of paris) to constant water erosion. Cheng’s landmark solo 1975 exhibition at Cal Tech’s Baxter Art Gallery, “Erosions & Other Environmental Changes,” included a selection of these nature machines as well as an entropic environment complete with insects, live plants and various ‘specimen’ viewing and delivery devices.

Carl Cheng’s work takes a material and conceptual approach that pushes the boundaries of traditional object making, post-minimalism, systems art and environmental art. Cheng plays a unique role in the history of American contemporary art practice and the history of art in California. Cheng lives and works in Los Angeles.

Carl Cheng’s work has appeared is such exhibitions as “The Photographic Object 1970” (2014, Hauser and Wirth, New York, NY); “The Photographic Object 1970” (2013, Le Consortium, Dijon, France); “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981” (2013, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA); “Proof: Los Angeles Art and the Photography 1960- 1980” (1992, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA); “Photography into Sculpture” (1970, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY); and “Vision and Expression” (1969, George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY). Solo exhibitions included LIST Visual Arts Center (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Boston, MA); Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (Santa Barbara, CA); Capp Street Projects (San Francisco, CA); and ASG Foundation Gallery (Nagoya, Japan). Reviews of Cheng’s work have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Art News, Art in America, Art Forum and other publications. Publications include “Carl Cheng/John Doe Co.: Twenty Five Year Survey” (1991, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA); “Mr X-acto: Photographs by Carl Cheng and Pat O’Neill” (1998, University of Nevada, Reno, NV); and “John Doe Co. Invites You to a New Exhibition of Products by Carl Cheng” (1970, Esther Robles Gallery, Los Angeles, CA).


Black is Beautiful: Empowerment Through the Lens of Kwame Brathwaite, 1962 - 1975

May 21 - July 30, 2016 | 2732 S. La Cienega Blvd

Kwame Brathwaite in Conversation: Saturday, May 21, 5pm
Opening reception: Saturday, May 21, 6-8pm

Conversation between Kwame Brathwaite and Philip Martin, Saturday May 21, 5pm

Cherry and Martin is proud to present the first West Coast solo exhibition of the work of American photographer Kwame Brathwaite. Inspired in part by the writings of Marcus Garvey, Kwame Brathwaite, his older brother, Elombe Brath, and the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (AJASS) popularized the phrase “Black is Beautiful” in the late 50's and early 60’s. “Black is Beautiful” is one of the most important political and cultural ideas of the twentieth century. Brathwaite and Brath did their part to spread this idea through Brathwaite’s writings and photographs and the activities of the two organizations they helped co-found: AJASS and the Grandassa Models.

Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs were specifically intended to shape the course of American visual discourse. His photographs foreground how artistic and political vision can affect change in popular culture and how popular culture can affect change on culture at large. The subjects of Brathwaite’s carefully crafted photographs invoke the power of a range of objects, such as books, musical instruments and artworks. The dress and hairstyles of his subjects point to their sense of themselves, while the environs of his subjects direct the viewer to a community of artist activists—writers, painters, playwrights, fashion designers and musicians. Brathwaite’s work demonstrates the power of photography as an essential cultural tool in the dissemination of new political ideas, its power to stage visual rhetoric and its ability make language visible.

Kwame Brathwaite was born in Brooklyn in 1938. His parents were born in Barbados. Brathwaite and his older brother, Elombe Brath, now deceased, and his younger brother John, were raised in a politically-conscious and artistic household. By the late 1950's, shortly after graduating from high school, Brathwaite and Brath became active in the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) led by Carlos Cooks. They were also involved in the early struggle in Southern Africa, forming in 1961 their Bronx-based South-West Africa Relief Committee to support Sam Nujoma’s South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) and later, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). Parallel to these political activities the two brothers were regularly producing concerts—a who’s-who of top Jazz figures of the time –at such venues as Club 845 in the Bronx and Small’s Paradise in Harlem. Brathwaite took on the role of photographing these concerts, promoting them, and organizing the cultural activities that would often be held during the concerts, such as art shows and African dance performances.

The 1961 Garvey Day Celebration’s “The Miss Natural Standard of Beauty Contest,” was a catalyzing moment for the brothers who saw clearly that the same models who eschewed make-up and wore their hair ‘natural’ for the contest would, by the following Sunday (when they came to pick up their prize money), have straightened their hair in order to feel comfortable going back to school, work and their everyday lives. Brathwaite and the other members of AJASS felt that African Americans needed to feel comfortable in their own skins and to be proud to display their natural beauty. He and Brath led the charge to establish studio and office space next to the Apollo Theater for AJASS, and started the Grandassa Models (named after ANPM leader Carlos Cooks’s term for the African continent, “Grandassaland”).

AJASS’s first fashion show, “Naturally '62,” headlined by Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, and initially planned as a one-time event, proved so popular that a second sold out show was held that same night to accommodate the crowd. When traveling to other cities for concerts, AJASS members Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach helped spread the word and make contacts with other progressive organizations that lead to “Naturally” show bookings in their respective cities. In February 1963, AJASS followed with shows at Robert’s Show Club in Chicago and Mr. Kelly’s in Detroit and continued to spread the “Black Is Beautiful” theme nationwide.

Brathwaite’s regular reporting and pictorials for leading black publications such as The Amsterdam News, City Sun and The Daily Challenge beginning in the early 60's helped set the stage for the Black Arts Movement and the Black Power movement. By the 1970's, Brathwaite was one of the top concert photographers, shaping the images of such public figures as Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Brathwaite wrote about and photographed such landmark events as the “The Motown Revue” at the Apollo (1963); “WattStax ’72” (1972); The Jackson 5’s first trip to Africa (1974); and the “Festival in Zaire” (1974, which accompanied the famous Foreman-Ali fight, “The Rumble in the Jungle”).

Elombe Brath died in 2014. He worked as a graphic artist at WABC-TV and served as a consultant for late television host Gil Noble’s groundbreaking WABC-TV show, “Like It Is.” The Elombe Brath Foundation was established in 2014 to continue the legacy of Elombe’s work.

Throughout the course of his career, Kwame Brathwaite has photographed such international figures as Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah—his namesake—and he still maintains a relationship with a range of African political figures, including Sam Nujoma, the first president of Namibia.

Due to the importance of Kwame’s work on political and cultural events, he was invited to the inaugurations of Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela, as well as the swearing-in of Namibian president Hage Geinbog in 2015. Kwame Brathwaite lives and works in New York.


Cherry and Martin is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10am-6pm and by appointment. The 2732 space is open Tuesday - Saturday from 11am-5pm and by appointment. For images and additional information, please contact or call 310 559-0100.

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