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At the Museums

Crowd pleasers, crowd teasers and a few crowd seizures are in the offing for L.A.’s fall-winter museum season. Tut’s still hangin’ — okay, lyin’ — in at LACMA until November 15. But the heat has moved over to the main complex, where “Pioneering Modern Painting; Cézanne and Pissarro, 1865-1885” has just opened (until January 16) and “Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship” still holds sway (until January 2). “Pioneering Modern Painting” looks deeply and instructively at the relationship between two of Impressionism’s most complex thinkers, painters for whom it wasn’t enough just to paint the world as it appeared, but to change the meaning of painting itself in the process. Joining these lords of creation are their pre-Columbian counterparts — well, sorta counterparts. “The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship” looks at how the king-gods of Olmec and Mayan civilizations two millennia ago determined, and were determined by, the Mesoamerican worldview. And topping off LACMA’s offerings are shows of three homeboys, young meta-taggers Gajin Fujita and Pablo Vargas-Lugo (brought together under the rubric “The Reinvention of Style,” to February 12) and mid-century abstract surrealist Lee Mullican, whose own radiant worldview is seen in retrospect as “An Abundant Harvest of Sun” (November 10-February 20). See Doug Harvey’s feature on Mullican on page 48. The worldview doesn’t get much more radiant than over at MOCA’s newly reopened Geffen Contemporary annex, where “Ecstasy” is turning heads — on (until February 20). Boomer bongers will find the trip nostalgic, while their progeny will find the nostalgia trippy. But that’s not the point of a show subtitled “In and About Altered States.” Installations, projections, objects, and even plain ol’ paintings by an international roster of contemporary artists demonstrate that you can’t control the substance of perception, only stimulate it and, if possible, redirect it. (See Christopher Miles’ piece on “Ecstasy” curator Paul Schimmel, page 24.)And at MOCA’s main house, “Masters of 20th-Century American Comics” (November 20-March 12) will blow minds a whole ’nother way. Giving this ur-genre of pop culture its museological due — not for the first, but perhaps for the best, time — “Masters” checks out the paneled oeuvres of 15 genre pioneers, from Winsor McCay (Little Nemo) and George Herriman (Krazy Kat) to R. Crumb (Zap Comix) and Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Gary Panter (Jimbo). Only the second, postwar half of “Masters” is at MOCA. The first half hangs across town at the UCLA Hammer Museum. So the show itself pioneers a new spirit of collaboration among L.A.’s major art museums.The celebratory mood continues at UCLA with “¡Carnaval!” (November 6-April 23) at the Fowler Museum on campus, documenting pre-Lenten (and in some cases pre-Xmas) revelry in places as disparate as Tlaxcala, Mexico; Basel, Switzerland; Trinidad and Tobago’s capital, Port of Spain; Venice, Italy; and Recife, Brazil. New Orleans is in that number, too, even if the walls of the Fowler may be as far as many Mardi Gras krewes get this year.As befits the castle on the hill, things are more sober up at the Getty, but no less enthralling. In the photo galleries, the tough ‘n’ rumble world of New Yawk photojournalist Weegee (augmented by his L. A. counterparts, George and Coy Watson, and a raft of war shots spanning World War II to ’Nam) contrasts with the cool, elegant approach of Julius Shulman, the unparalleled architectural photographer who made the postwar era that much more an American dream — and who’s still going strong here in L.A. at the age of 95, all until January 22. A major chronicler of his own time and place, Tiziano Vecellio was, among other things, just about the 16th century’s greatest figure painter. “Titian and the Commander” is the Getty’s way of showing off its acquisition of one of Titian’s greatest figures, Alfonso d’Avalos, Marquis of Vasto, in Armor with a Page. True to form, the show (subtitled “A Renaissance Artist and His Patron,” through February 5) documents the painting and the genre it spawned, pairing it with, among other things, Titian’s other portrait of the Fons, lent by the Prado.In light of that, a retrospective of Max Liebermann might seem a bit recondite, but, hey, it’s more impressionism — only this time not from France, but from Germany, of all places. And the show (through January 29) is up the hill at the Skirball, of all places — well, not so surprising, as Liebermann was a macher not only in the art scene of the new German Reich but in the large Jewish community of Berlin. The exhibition follows Liebermann’s evolution “from Realism to Impressionism,” his responsiveness to the new painting styles of his youth and struggles with the new styles of his old age — including the anti-style of Nazism, which blackened his last years. Piplotti Rist, Related Legs (Yokohama Dandelions) (2001), “Ecstasy” Another macher, later and local-er, has his life and times limned in a show rich in documents and artworks alike. “Semina Culture,” which traverses “Wallace Berman & His Circle,” is still up at the Santa Monica Museum until November 26. This is the history of Beat Los Angeles, and its paintings, postcards, portrait photos and films reawaken an era and a group of like-minded people. Another bow to regional art history happens at the REDCAT art center, where “An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life” will display contemporary artists’ responses to the photographic archive that belonged to Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Meanwhile, up in Pasadena, the Norton Simon once again delves deeply into the arts and culture of South Asia with “Durga: Avenging Goddess, Nurturing Mother. Running through March 27, “Durga” looks at the female principle among Hindu deity — a principle that spans creation and destruction, birth and death, and the forms of animal, human, and god(dess). As it happens, the San Diego Museum has mounted its own show of art — specifically painting — from the Indian subcontinent, “Domains of Wonder” (until January 22), so if “Durga” sends you Gita-ward, head south. While there, of course, check out SDMA’s other offerings — including “Only Skin Deep, a hard-hitting photographic look at “the representation of race in America” (until December 31). And check in on both the downtown and La Jolla campuses of San Diego’s own MOCA; the downtown site currently features Barbara Kruger’s Twelve (until December 11), a four-screen video work that departs from her signature, static graphic style. Furthermore, as you traverse Orange County on the way there and back, the Orange County Museum might lure you off the 405 with “John Waters: Change of Life” (through January 15). You doubtless know the eccentric indie filmmaker has been making his own static artwork, but do you know what he’s been making? The sly, snarky, iconoclastic wit is there, but oh, what forms it takes!Celebrity art from an earlier era hangs at Pepperdine’s Weisman Museum through December 18 as “Zelda by Herself” explores “The Art of Zelda Fitzgerald. The show reveals some of the native talents that her husband’s success and, later, her own madness obscured. In fact, painting is the one art she was able to pursue even while institutionalized. The Craft and Folk Art Museum features “Behind the Altar, serving up a delicious collection of retablos from Paul Thiebaud’s collection (until December 31). California Impressionist (another one!) Alson Skinner Clark gets his life and times reviewed at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (through January 8). “Behold, the Pacific!” fills the charming California Heritage Museum (until February 26) with coastal views from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. And Venezuelan Op Art master Jesús Rafael Soto, who died early this year, is seen in retrospect at Long Beach’s Museum of Latin American Art, until March 19.Otis College of Art & Design’s “Shazia Sikander: Dissonance to Detour” is still up until November 12; the acclaimed Pakistani artist was until recently in residence. “Step Into Liquid,” abstract paintings guest curated by Dave Hickey, opens December 3 (through January 28), and then “Otis: Nine Decades of Los Angeles Art,” a survey of the local scene featuring Otis grads Camille Rose Garcia, Gaijin Fujita, Patssi Valdez, Sandeep Mukherjee, Richard Pettibone, Jeffrey Vallance and Bruce Yonemoto opens January 20 at Barnsdall Park. The next day, Pomona College Museum of Art offers “Ed Ruscha/Raymond Pettibon: The Holy Bible and THE END,” a collaboration in two print series. Speaking of Ruscha, on November 18 the Irvine Valley College Art Gallery presents Andrew Sears’ update of Ruscha’s famous conceptual work of 1966, Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Sears’ version, Sunset Rising (?), consists of 1500 digital photos that document Sunset Boulevard through Silver Lake and Echo Park. Runs through January 13.Bon temps!

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