THE CALIFORNIA AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM (CAAM) announced a new appointment today. Curator, writer, and editor Cameron Shaw has been named deputy director and chief curator of the Los Angeles Museum. Shaw is the co-founder of Pelican Bomb, a New Orleans-based contemporary art nonprofit that provided a platform for exhibitions, public programming, and arts journalism. For eight years, she led Pelican Bomb, serving as executive director and founding editor of its publication.

CAAM, which focuses on art and history programming, has been without a chief curator since Naima Keith announced her departure in February and joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in April.

George O. Davis, CAAM’s executive director, said he was delighted to welcome Shaw to the museum. In a statement he said: “Her deep commitments to contemporary art and visual culture, as well as community engagement, will greatly benefit our institution as we continue to present thoughtful exhibitions and dynamic public programs that examine African American art, history, and culture in the West.”

Shaw officially starts at CAAM tomorrow, bringing a solid foundation in exhibition programming, community engagement, and fundraising to the position. She built Pelican Bomb from the ground up, garnering national attention and fundraising support for the organization’s expansive curatorial and publishing program. She organized a broad slate of exhibitions, large-scale public projects, cross-sector collaborations, and commissions.

Recent programming included “Fallen Fruit of New Orleans” (2017–18), a city-wide initiative produced with the Los Angeles-based art collective Fallen Fruit that included planting 300 fruit trees in New Orleans in celebration of the city’s tricentennial. “Queer Tropics” (2017–18) was presented as a satellite exhibition during Prospect.4. Another show, “Mutual Support” (2017), explored issues of mental health and wellness, highlighted artists who engage the issues, and offered a pop-up wellness center that was accessible to the public and supported by artists and healing professionals. Established in 2011, Pelican Bomb closed in November 2018.

Previously, Shaw was a research manager at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. She has also worked in the curatorial departments at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn., the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Over the course of her career, her writing and research have focused on black art and image practices since 1960. Shaw has written for a variety of publications including, the New York Times, and published essays in catalogs focused on Nick Cave, Chris Ofili, and Tameka Norris, among others. She earned a B.A. in the history of art from Yale University.

“[Cameron Shaw’s] deep commitments to contemporary art and visual culture, as well as community engagement, will greatly benefit our institution as we continue to present thoughtful exhibitions and dynamic public programs that examine African American art, history, and culture in the West.” — George O. Davis, Executive Director of CAAM

NEWS OF SHAW’S APPOINTMENT comes after a months-long search to replace Keith, who previously served in the position and is now vice president of education and public programs at LACMA.

Both Keith and Shaw are Los Angeles natives who returned to their hometown to join CAAM. Keith left New York in 2016, where she was an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, to inaugurate what was then a new position at the museum.

Under Keith’s leadership, CAAM introduced a new logo and branding, presented thought-provoking history programming, engaged with a robust slate of contemporary artists, and organized an elevated level of art exhibitions, compared with the museum’s recent past. During her tenure, exhibition programming featured Gary Simmons, Robert Pruitt, Nina Chanel Abney, the landmark traveling exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985,” and a retrospective of Ernie Barnes.

It will be interesting to see where Shaw takes the museum next. She said CAAM provides a powerful platform at an important moment. “Growing up in this city, with multigenerational family roots in South Los Angeles, it’s an honor to join CAAM at this unique moment in its history,” Shaw said in a statement.

“CAAM presents a powerful platform to build new scholarship and public experiences around the contributions of African Americans to the cultural life of this city, state, country, and the world. More than forty years after its founding, there remains an inarguable need to create inclusive, accessible, and dynamic spaces where all people can see black lives and experiences valued and reflected, and I’m proud to be part of that visionary legacy.” CT

 

IMAGE: Cameron Shaw. | Photo by Matt Sayles

 

READ MORE For the New York Times, Cameron Shaw wrote about how museum exhibitions in New Orleans responded to the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

 

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