The following works by Richmond Barthé come from the collection of Jerry Manpearl and Jan Goodman, Los Angeles. Mr. Manpearl is a real estate, civil rights, and civil litigation lawyer in the state of California. He received his B.A. from UC Berkeley and then his law degree at UCLA, where he met artists Samella Lewis, Ruth Waddy, and E.J. Montgomery. Samella Lewis first arrived in Southern California in 1966 and took a position teaching at Cal State Long Beach. Two years later, she began working for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as a coordinator of education, but she became disenfranchised with the institution and set out on her own, planning a combination of ambitious projects that would help change the landscape of African American art in the region.
First, she and Ruth Waddy published two books, Black Artists on Art (2 volumes, in 1969 and 1971). These books help connect working black artists across the country as well as familiarize the public with their work. Secondly, she formed the Museum of African American Art, now located at 4005 Crenshaw Blvd, in the Macy’s Building, Los Angeles, CA. Lewis opened a place called The Gallery on Redondo Blvd, and with the moral and financial support of her sister Millie, and a small group of friends, they opened the museum. The group was operating on a shoestring, and leaned on their friend, Jerry Manpearl, to act as their lawyer to help with these projects.
The year was 1976, the same year Richmond Barthé arrived in Pasadena, with the entirety of his personal belongings: a television and a modeling table. Charles White and his wife had found him a small apartment. Barthé was an acquaintance of the actor/director Ivan Dixon, and Dixon introduced his friend to Samella Lewis shortly after his [Barthé’s] arrival in L.A. Two years later (1978), Dixon introduced Barthé to a co-worker, Nanette T
urner, who decided to interview him and submit an article to the Inner City Cultural Center, who published a multicultural magazine of the arts. Dixon was directing an episode of the television show, The Rockford Files, and upon hearing the story of Barthé and reading the article, actor James Garner (the star of the show), requested a meeting with the artist.
Barthé was involved in an issue of possible copyright infringement, as a collector wanted to reproduce two of his images—seemingly without permission. Within the circle of acquaintances, Jerry Manpearl was contacted to help the artist. Manpearl aided Barthé in properly copyrighting his images so they would not fall into the public domain, and set up a trust to protect the accounts of the artist. The trio of Lewis, Garner, and Manpearl turned the elderly artist’s life around. Once copyrighted, Garner
funded the casting of editions of Barthé’s sculptures, under the supervision of the artist. The revenue from these sculptures, supplemented by financial support from Garner (Mr. Manpearl, stated in an interview that Garner put Barthé on his payroll for the remainder of the artist’s life) provided support for the artist. Barthé celebrated his 81st birthday in 1982 on the set of The Rockford Files, and five years later, in 1987, the Museum of African American Art honored him for his achievements in the art world.
Jerry Manpearl is the co-founder of the Paul Robeson Community Wellness Center in Los Angeles and President of the Southern California World Trade Association. He clerked for the Chief Justice of the California Courts of Appeal. Through his interest in the visual arts, Manpearl has lent his services to many artists, including Elizabeth Catlett and Samella Lewis, both of whom, like Barthé, are represented in his collection.