Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

Black City: The Los Angeles Edition

J. Yolande Daniels. Black City: The Los Angeles Edition. 2020

Model: high-density polyurethane foam, latex paint, laser-cut and etched cast acrylic, thermoplastic filament 3D prints, maple hardwood, and Baltic birch plywood base
Digital prints
Project team: J. Yolande Daniels, Christopher B. Dewart, Jennifer O’Brien, Julian Andrew, Escudero Geltman, Emily Jane Wissemann, and Charlotte Isabel D’Acierno (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Xiaoyi Zhang and Zicheng Zhang (Syracuse University); Zachary Bergmann and Kira Wallen (University of Southern California)
Commissioned for the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

J. Yolande Daniels: My name is Yolande Daniels.

My project explores Black settlement in Los Angeles, from its founding by the Spanish through to American occupation. As I started to do research, the narratives that I found had to do with the agency of the inhabitants and how they built community focusing on their power to shape the spaces around them.

And one of the narratives that really stood out had to do with Biddy Mason because she was an enslaved woman who sued for her freedom and won. She saves her money and she buys property throughout downtown Los Angeles. But what was really interesting to me was piecing together how she was able to do this through her relationship with other African-Americans. So it wasn't just her as an actor by herself, but it was really about this community.

My project is basically an atlas. It contains maps that have historic layers projected onto the contemporary map of the city, a timeline, dictionary plates. African Americans are often made to feel that we have no history or that our history is only sorrow, but the people who were making the history, they were fighting all the time to realize good things for themselves and for their family and for others. That's what I see in these stories and I want others to see them too.

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