DC Commissioned Artist

Charles Dickson

Car Culture / Sankofa Park


Charles Dickson has been an important figure in the Black LA art scene for several decades.

His intricate carvings in wood and metal reflect the African Diaspora with direct references to traditional motifs, languages and styles of well-documented and heavily collected African ritual objects and language including Ghanaian Adinkra symbols. His iconic Compton studio is a place of wonder that merges history with the present through Dickson’s own fantastical imagination. He represents the crossroads between the continent as the modern Black American migration story westward, as well as between the elders including Charles White, John Riddle Noah Purifoy and Judson Powell who were instrumental in mentoring the young artist and helping shape his visual voice.

DC Featured Art

"Car Culture"

Rendering of “Car Culture” in Sankofa Park by Perkins&Will

“My sculptures are my way of preserving memory and passing on tradition.”

Evident in the placement and purpose of his artwork in Sankofa Park, Car Culture is the unique confluence recognizing spirit, place and intention in Black cultural life in Los Angeles where cars replace the symbol of the African bird for mobility. Car Culture is a trio of elongated figures resembling famous West African Senufo ritual objects. For the Senufo, these carved figures are the conduit between the living and spirit worlds, and Dickson continues this practice by connecting fiber optic cable between these larger than life portals to the past and the car fronts and ends that become their crown. Cars are a fundamental component of Crenshaw street life that brings together innovation, creativity and the communal joy of gathering in celebration of the unbounded ingenuity of Black and Brown makers. 
Car Culture incorporates self-referential elements of cars one might see when the low riders gather in Leimert Park. Atop these car parts rests a fanciful engine, a metaphor for our capacity to be the engineers of our own futures by sustaining our relationships with the vitality of the past and the elders who make space for our success from the spirit world. Dickson’s contribution is the embodiment of Sankofa – looking back to get what is necessary for our future.

Other Works