Leo Politi's Los Angeles: works of love and protest

Feb 15, 2019 491

BY: Marianna Gatto

Fifty years ago, Los Angeles-based Italian American artist Leo Politiquestioned the the notion of "progress" "achieved" at the expense of the destruction of communities and history. Although primarily recognized as an award-winning children's book author and illustrator, Politi spent decades chronicling the city's diverse enclaves and captured its landmarks and people with his paintbrush.

Long before it was in vogue to celebrate multiculturalism, the children who danced across the pages of Politi's books were inspired by those he had met in #WattsChinatown, Los Angeles Pico Rivera, CaliforniaDowntown LA, and Little Tokyo. He documented the Jewish community of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles and painted Watts during the time of civil unrest.

He was among the last residents to be evicted from Bunker Hill before the neighborhood's stately mansions were razed and replaced with skyscrapers. Many of the questions and themes explored in Politi's work remain relevant today, such as, what is the future of Los Angeles? Who will be afforded the privilege to live in this city? Who belongs and who is an outsider? And, how will we preserve our heritage and history, especially in the face of greed? It was truly an honor for me personally to organize this exhibition and I hope you take the opportunity to visit it. It remains at the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles until late May.

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