Oral Histories

Interview of John Riddle

African American artist.
African American Artists of Los Angeles: John Riddle
African American Artists of Los Angeles
African American History
Biographical Note:
African American artist.
Mason, Karen Anne
Riddle, John
Persons Present:
Riddle, Mason, and Riddle's wife Carmen Riddle, intermittently.
Place Conducted:
Riddle's home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Karen Anne Mason; B.A., English, Simmons College; M.A., Art History, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
Steven J. Novak, editor, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. Riddle did not review the transcript but provided selected names when queried. As a consequence, family names and some acquaintances remain unverified. William Van Benschoten, editor, prepared the table of contents, biographical summary, and interview history. Ji Young Kwon, editorial assistant, compiled the index.
5.8 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series African American Artists of Los Angeles document significant African American Artists and others in the Los Angeles metropolitan area who have worked to expand exhibition opportunities and public support for African American visual culture. The series was made possible in part by support from the UCLA Center for African American Studies, Institute of American Cultures.
Family background--The Carter G. Woodson collection in the Atlanta library--Woodson's connection to the Riddle family--Father's employment as an architect and specifications writer--The decline of a sense of community among African Americans--Riddle's religious background--His murals for a Black Christian Nationalist church in Atlanta--Racial discrimination in Los Angeles.
Induction into the United States Air Force--Discrimination in the military--Reasons African Americans seek employment in the military and the postal service--Riddle's tour of duty in Japan--His perception of the Japanese people--His early interest in art--Studies earth science at Los Angeles Community College--Receives a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles, in education and art--Reasons Riddle works in several media--His interest in found objects--Sketching the police station at Pico and Rimpau.
The incidence of drug and alcohol use among artists and musicians--Differences between artists in Atlanta and those on the West Coast--Riddle's brief sojourn in Trinidad--Elite control of and profiteering from the Olympic Games--African American artists' use of color--Riddle's painting The Olympic Stand --His Clubs Is Trumps--Images and techniques he uses in his art.
Riddle's desire to avoid repeating himself artistically--The commitment and dedication required to be an artist--Riddle's definition of success.
Riddle's collaboration with John W. Outterbridge--More on his murals for a Black Christian Nationalist church in Atlanta--More on his collaboration with Outterbridge--Anthony Hill--Competition and cooperation among Riddle's artist friends--How the Watts riots united African American artists in Los Angeles--Differences between black and white critics approach to African American art--The public's preference for soothing, non-confrontational art--United States involvement in the drug trade in Central America--The human costs of drug use in African American communities--Crime as a source of profit in American society.
The problem of black-on-black violence--Raising African American consciousness through art--Impact of the middle passage on Riddle's art--His goals in teaching children--The injustice of United States immigration policies--The importance of persevering in art regardless of the market--The need for African Americans to support African American businesses--White liberals' attitude toward blacks--The impact of racism worldwide.
More on the impact of racism worldwide--Riddle's appreciation of jazz--The African American art tradition--Riddle's idea for an artwork portraying Huey P. Newton--America's recent decline and its causes--Riddle's proposed artwork on the drug trade--Ronald W. Reagan--Riddle's reasons for becoming an artist--Producing art while holding full-time employment.