An Idea Called Tomorrow


John Outterbridge
November 25, 2009, 7:56 pm
Filed under: John Outterbridge

John Outterbridge – Flight of A Footnote, 2009

Image of "Flight of A Footnote" by John Outterbridge

John Outterbridge’s assemblages are bound together by a complex and poignant weave of personal stories that double as historical scenarios.  Outterbridge astutely positions his startlingly powerful objects as memorials, without limiting their homage to any finite event in history.  Outterbridge approaches history itself as an assemblage, out of which he formulates an arrestingly affirmative philosophical outlook.

Flight of A Footnote attempts to embrace one of many possibilities suggested by the title of the overall exhibition An Idea Called Tomorrow -1.  The ritual and cultural significance of feet and footwear in the traditions of the people of the world is surely complex and unique.  Feet/shoes are both the most revered as well as reviled part of the human body. The feet of the clergy, elders, deities, and others are worshipped. The feet of women are beautifully cared for and adorned; they become symbols of affection, fashion, and eroticism. Conversely, feet are a most humble, impure and polluting part of the body.

During a December 14, 2008 press conference at the Prime Minister’s Palace in Bagdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at then-United States President George W. Bush. The throwing of the shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in both Islamic and Arab cultures.  “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe toward the U.S. president.  “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq,” he shouted as he threw his second shoe.  It was this particular incident that stimulated or informed my research in regard to shoe cultures,” explains Outterbridge. “An Idea Called Tomorrow is most certainly about the future and little feet/shoes of children are the true representatives of all events.  Children do indeed receive each path way to tomorrow.

Detail of "Flight of A Footnote" by John Outterbridge

John Outterbridge, born in 1933, is a seminal figure in the Los Angeles art scene, particularly within the assemblage movement of the 1960s and 70s. Serving for years as a Director of Watts Tower Museum and the Compton Communicative Arts Academy,  Outterbridge was and still is today,  crucial as a teacher and mentor to countless artists in Los Angeles, including David Hammons, Betye Saar, John Riddle, Noah Purifoy. Searching for a new visual language to represent the African-American experience, Outterbridge draws on assemblage, folk art, African sculpture , family and community activism as his inspiration.

Outterbridge’s work is exhibited nationally and internationally; he is in numerous public and private collections and publications.  Outterbridge recently had a solo exhibition at Tilton Gallery in New York City and had a major retrospective at the California African American Museum in 1994.  He lives and maintains a studio in South Central Los Angeles.

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