The Inglewood artist died over the weekend, just a week after the opening of the Expo Line, which features his artwork in the Crenshaw station. The MTA joined friends on Facebook in announcing his death:
It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Willie Robert Middlebrook, Jr., just one week after the opening of the Metro Expo Line, featuring Middlebrook’s artwork at the Expo/Crenshaw Station.
Born in Detroit in 1957, Middlebrook relocated to Los Angeles in 1960. Over his lifetime, Middlebrook’s photographs and photo-painting portraits were exhibited in over 200 solo and group shows, including venues such as the Studio Museum of Harlem, Art Institute of Chicago, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Cleveland Museum of Art and the California African-American Museum.
Middlebrook received numerous awards for his artwork including two Visual Artist Fellowships in photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Getty Trust Visual Artist Fellowship, a Brody Individual Artist Fellowship from the California Community Foundation and a city of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship.
Middlebrook also inspired a generation of emerging artists through courses he taught at California State University Los Angeles and Compton Community College, many of whom attribute the early growth of their professional careers to Middlebrook’s encouragement.
In addition to the 24 mosaic artworks on view at Expo/Crenshaw Station on the Expo Line, Middlebrook’s public art commissions can be enjoyed at Avalon Station on the Metro Green Line and the L.A. County Florence-Firestone Service Center.
There was a gathering yesterday at the Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park. "We're going to leave Willie's work up for a couple more days - come by, if you can, and leave a token for the family on his altar," says J. Michael Walker.
Photo: Metro's blog The Source