Profile: Calvin Hicks (1941-2012)

Calvin Robert Hicks was an African American photographer and gallerist, best known for founding The Black Photographers of California and its associated exhibition space, the Black Gallery, in Los Angeles, as well as for his classical nude portraiture from the 1970s.

Early Years

Calvin Hicks was born to a coal mining family in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, in 1941. He attended school in West Virginia through college when he earned a degree in art education from West Virginia State College in 1965.

After college, Hicks worked as an art teacher at Herbert Hoover High School until 1968, when he, his wife, and their two daughters moved to Los Angeles, where Hicks worked as a county parole officer for forty years.

Photographic career

Hicks had been a photographer since he received his first camera, a box camera, in elementary school, and in Los Angeles, he continued to take photos and paint. He also continued to study art at the Inner City Cultural Center, the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, and from 1984 to 1986, the Otis Art Institute.

Hicks was also a member of the Bunker Hill Arts League, along with friends Donald Bernard and Willie Middlebrook, and from 1980-1984 he exhibited his work there. Together with Bernard and Middlebrook, as well as Donald Anton and Andy Garcia, Hicks started several gallery spaces in Los Angeles in the 1980s, including the Visionist Gallery and a combined darkroom and studio space in Inglewood, California.

Hicks’ collected work consists of fine art photography, natural compositions, and several long-running bodies of work depicting public spaces and events in Los Angeles, especially Venice Beach and community events like the Central Avenue Jazz Festival.

The Calvin Hicks Collection consists of over 2,800 images and is housed at the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, California State University, Northridge.

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