America's Problem Solver

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America's Problem Solver

Welded metal
31 × 45 1/2 × 11 1/4 in. (78.74 × 115.57 × 28.58 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by the Robert H. Halff Endowment Fund (M.2020.163)
Not currently on public view


Los Angeles-born John T. Riddle, Jr....
Los Angeles-born John T. Riddle, Jr. believed that art must “advance social consciousness and promote Black development.” Like his mentor Noah Purifoy and his peers Melvin Edwards and John Outterbridge, Riddle was deeply affected by the destruction resulting from the 1965 Watts Rebellion, and turned to welding sculptural assemblages from the torched debris. America’s Problem Solver, created some five years later at the height of the Vietnam War, evokes both a weapon and a telescope. It suggests not only that the United States had other countries and cultures in its sights, but also that this country itself was under scrutiny.

As a serviceman in the 1950s who had felt the sting of institutional military racism, Riddle was certainly aware that Blacks were being disproportionately killed in Vietnam. His sculpture thus implies a need to look both afar and within to solve our national problems, which holds as true today as in the 1970s.

Wall label, 2021.