Artillery Magazine's in Memoriam of Willie Middlebrook


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Artillery Magazine's In Memoriam of Willie Middlebrook                            WILLIE  ROBERT  MIDDLEBROOK   JR.

                                                                1957 -2012


Born  August 11, in Detroit,  Middlebrook’s  family relocated  to Los Angeles in  1960  and  on  May 5  he passed  on  to the ancestral  realm .   It   became clear that photography chose him  as it’s  designated creative agent , whose bottom line was  to  facilitate the expansion  of the call ‘n  response / communication loop  between   himself  and  his  family, extended  family, community, and  the  global culture , as a cultural  construct and  social  network, whose community prototype  is  the  “bush  telegraph” a.k.a. “the grapevine.”


During his abbreviated ,yet illustrious career Middlebrook left a remarkable legacy of  accomplishments . After  receiving an  A.A. degree , he  participated   in  over 200 solo and group  exhibitions, nationally, at such  institutions  as the Studio Museum of Harlem , Los Angeles County of Museum of Art (LACMA), Art Institute of Chicago , Watts Tower Art Center, Lindhurst Gallery at USC , Cleveland Museum of Art , University of  Syracuse , Museum of African American Life & Culture   and  The Robert B. Menschel  Photography Gallery.  He was a sought after lecturer/ master  teacher  at  the Art Center College of Design , San Francisco Art Institute, Queensboro  College, Cal State  Northridge  and  USC .  Middlebrook was a recipient  of  two NEA  grants in 1982 and  1992 and also received  two  major mass transit commissions : at the Avalon Green Line Station  and  the Crenshaw Station for the Expo Line . He’s represented in  major collections including  The National Museum of  African-America Art at the Smithsonian , LACMA, Golden State  Mutual Collection and the California African-American  Museum .  Middlebrook  served  on  numerous  boards  and  held   several   director‘s  posts, including  Los  Angeles Contemporary Exhibition (LACE) , The Watts Towers  Art Center  and  The Los Angeles Photography Center .


 Middlebrook  was  a  “ darkroom-digital  alchemist”. Two  series that exhibit his   alchemic skill set   are “Portraits  Of  My People” in which  he “painted” with  photo developer,   creating  oversize  “photo paintings housing  a  series of   intentional  surface   accidents  that  were as groundbreaking  as  Sam  Gilliam’s  “draped”  paintings. Their deep  black  to  sepia toned surfaces recall  photographer Roy DeCarava’s  rich   photographic surfaces. The “Black Angels Series” are  digital color photo collages , employing a  D.J.’s  instincts  and sensibilities, transposing the mixer into the  computer  keyboard and  the   records into  his images that are mixed  and scratched into a  visual tapestry as intricate and  as audacious as  your “tagged neighborhood wall” and Hank  Shocklee‘s  “beats” for Public Enemy! –Greg Angaza Pitts

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