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Last chance: John Outterbridge assemblages of dreadlocks, twigs, an American flag at Art + Practice

Last chance: John Outterbridge assemblages of dreadlocks, twigs, an American flag at Art + Practice
"Case in Point," ca. 1970, by John Outterbridge, from the artist's solo exhibition atArt + Practice in Leimert Park. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

The materials that John Outterbridge uses in his assemblages couldn't be more humble: bits of hair, scraps of wood, old rags, what appears to be a remnant of an old pizza paddle. But the artist, who is known for his alchemical mixes of materials, has a way of transforming the scraps of everyday life into something that is greater than the sum of its parts — abstracted sculptures, surreal tools and totemic figures.

A solo exhibition of Outterbridge's work at Art + Practice in Leimert Park, now in its last two days, gathers some of the artist's better known works. This includes sculptures such as "Jive Ass Bird" from the early '70s, with its abstracted American flag face — political imagery rendered out of old canvas and belts.

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It also includes numerous other works, many of them crafted over the last 15 years. "Remnants of an Apron Lost," from 2002, transforms a wooden paddle into an African-inspired fetish figure — one studded with clipped pieces of dreadlocked hair. A piece called "Hooked," from 2009, turns bits of wood into a dangerous-looking claw.

In "Déjà Vu-Do," ca. 1979-1992,'Outterbridge suspendsa black figure between a cage and a flag.
In "Déjà Vu-Do," ca. 1979-1992,'Outterbridge suspendsa black figure between a cage and a flag. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

In a rear gallery, a black rag doll appears trapped between a cage and the weighty presence of an American flag, which, bound to her ankle, appears to be dragging her down.

"I don't think art is any special thing," the longtime Los Angeles artist told an oral historian for the Archives of American Art in the early 1970s. Yet, in his hands, the mundane takes on a cast of something special — and often, quite charged.

A series of assemblages by John Outterbridge at Art + Practice. The artist is known for his careful constructions made out of detritus.
A series of assemblages by John Outterbridge at Art + Practice. The artist is known for his careful constructions made out of detritus. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
Twigs are carefullywrapped in colorful rags in the John Outterbridge piece "Ragged Bar Code," from 2008.
Twigs are carefullywrapped in colorful rags in the John Outterbridge piece "Ragged Bar Code," from 2008. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
Outterbridge often speaks to politics in his work -- such as the use of American flag imagery in the 1971 assemblage "Jive Ass Bird."
Outterbridge often speaks to politics in his work -- such as the use of American flag imagery in the 1971 assemblage "Jive Ass Bird." (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
Assemblages from the artist's "Rag and Bag and Idiom" series from 2012.
Assemblages from the artist's "Rag and Bag and Idiom" series from 2012. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
A figure sits inside a wheel made of wood and rags in the 2008 sculpture "Caged."
A figure sits inside a wheel made of wood and rags in the 2008 sculpture "Caged." (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
"Hooked," a mixed media piece by John Outterbridge from 2009, evokes the violence of an extended claw.
"Hooked," a mixed media piece by John Outterbridge from 2009, evokes the violence of an extended claw. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

John Outterbridge, "Rag Man," is on view at Art + Practice through Saturday. 4339 Leimert Blvd., Leimert Park, Los Angeles, artandpractice.org.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah

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