Saturday, November 21, 2009
Four years ago when photography curator Julian Cox moved from L.A.'s J. Paul Getty Museum to Atlanta's High Museum of Art, he looked for a project that would connect him to his new community. The answer came quickly: a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr."King was a national figure, but he was also a man of Atlanta," says Cox, who set out to organize a landmark exhibition and build the preeminent collection of its kind at an American art museum. The High's tiny trove of 15 prints grew to 325 by 2008, when “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968” opened in Atlanta.The show subsequently acquired larger significance -- at the Smithsonian Institution's S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C., where it became a major attraction for throngs that turned out for President Obama's inauguration.And now "Road to Freedom" has come to Los Angeles, where it is on view at the Skirball Cultural Center. The latest, expanded edition has a section on L.A.'s civil rights history and a companion show comparing Eric Etheridge's recent portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders with vintage mug shots. There are also documentary films and a lineup of public events. Concurrently, the California African American Museum will present a High Museum-organized exhibition on progressive social change.