December 31, 2020

LAWT News Service


John Outterbridge, a central figure in the Black assemblage arts movement and former director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, died this year.

The date, place and cause of death, were not disclosed. He was 87.

Outterbridge grew up exposed to the practice of recycling materials through his father, a hauler and mover who salvaged junk and used goods.


From a childhood spent amid such cast-off items, Outterbridge developed an appreciation for both the practical and the aesthetic motivations for using found objects in his own art.

Beginning in the 1960s, Outterbridge and other artists sought a new visual language to express the African American experience, one that did not depend solely on representation.


An educator and activist, Outterbridge began teaching at the Compton Communicative Arts Academy and the Watts Towers Arts Center in the mid-1960s.

He became director of the academy around 1970 and of the arts center in 1975.

While juggling these positions, Outterbridge also worked at the Pasadena Art Museum from 1967 to 1974 as a preparator and installer, a job that exposed him to the work of Mark di Suvero, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and other artists who experi­mented with materials and tools.

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