Typically, an art world Fall season preview (not to mention the arts calendars covering the first three weekends of September) speaks to a flurry of activity. A raft of Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights divided into 15-minute segments, cross-town dashes and so much hugging. This year, things are a little different. Galleries are not entirely getting back into the opening reception game; and while many are, during the pandemic we’ve become accustomed to seeing shows on our own time during the weeks or months while they’re on view. This arrangement may lack the selfie-strewn intoxication of the opening night network, but it does offer a deeper and more mindful encounter with the art. I say keep that measured pace and safer, more intimate viewing energy going. Along with the relative calm of lower capacity museum visiting and hybrid/virtual companion programming for those who have their reasons, it’s one habit from the pandemic that I hope we don’t kick.
Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures, at Art + Practice. The idea of an interdisciplinary artistic practice that encompasses, say, dance and movement, photography, video and storytelling is not new these days. Artists are encouraged to collaborate and investigate across genres, artforms and other boundaries. But in the 1960’s, 70’s and even into the 80’s, this was still an avant-garde modality; as groundbreaking creators like Blondell Cummings (1944-2015) were making themselves known and thereby changing the course of art and culture. A new exhibition at Art + Practice examines several of Cummings’ most powerful interdisciplinary works in the context of her creative inspiration — uplifting the memories and textures of life in her community, while engaging with contemporary aesthetic theory and the influence of traditional African art and dance forms. 3401 W. 43rd Pl., Leimert Park; on view September 18 – February 19, 2022; free; artandpractice.org.
Keith Walsh: All Good Pictures Are About the Future, at rdfa. Rory Devine Fine Art (rdfa) is one of L.A.’s newest galleries, but also one with some of the city’s deepest roots. The crazy idea of its eponymous director — an accomplished artist/curator/gallerist — it’s one of those passionate places where artists gather. Following a soft opening this summer, in late October, they will open a rather epic snapshot survey of this moment in independent Los Angeles painting. But first, they open September with a solo exhibition of new and recent works by Keith Walsh — a painter and sculptor whose conceptualist cartography studies, enshrines and interpretively embodies the history of the “radical” left and other libration-based political movements, especially in Los Angeles, and especially when there is “a fusion of art and activism” to appreciate. 3209 W. Washington Blvd., West Adams; September 18 – October 16; free; rorydevinefineart.com.
Tiffany Alfonseca: De las manos que nos crearon, at The Mistake Room. The solar brightness of Alfonseca’s palette, color-blocked inside radiantly reductive genre painting, depicts simple moments of joy in scenes of Black life. Directly inspired by characters and experiences from her own diasporic Afro-Latinx upbringing, Alfonseca’s work is also in dialog with the folkloric styles of both North and South America as well as Africa and the Caribbean, while at the same time planting its presence within the continuum of New York’s post-war avant-garde and later Pop-infused abstractionists. This will be the first Los Angeles solo presentation for the Bronx-based artist, whose deeply personal visual language tells universal family stories, forming a more perfect and complete portrait of America. 1811 E. 20th St., downtown; On view September 19 – December 11; free; tmr.la.
Hayao Miyazaki at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. When the much buzzed-about Academy Museum at long last opens this September, no doubt much of its star-power will be radiating from the acres of plush red carpet, the parade of iconic moments and historical backstories across cinematic history (clips, artifacts, costumes, BTS galore) from Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane, to Pedro Almodovar, Frida Kahlo, Batman and the history of the Oscars themselves. But it is essential that you do not miss the new museum’s inaugural temporary gallery exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki — the first North American museum survey dedicated to the legendary animated feature film artist and his 60-year career. Mindful of its location, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s films, including the Oscar-winning instant classic Spirited Away (2001). Original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including several items on public view outside of Japan for the first time, will be displayed in conjunction with large-scale projections and immersive environments. 6067 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; opening to the public September 30; $25; academymuseum.org.
Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds at the Skirball. The newly minted Academy Museum isn’t the only institution taking us to the movies this Fall, as the Skirball opens a new exhibition centered around the quirky but visionary futurism of the absolutely legendary television and film franchise that has captured global imaginations for more than 50 years. An immersive exhibition will, “showcase Star Trek’s significant impact on culture, art, and technology through more than one hundred rare artifacts, set pieces and props, plus state-of-the-art photo and video interactives,” the Skirball promises. Costumes, scripts, storyboards and other process materials will all be presented in the context of the show’s orientation toward justice and equality in the universe, which despite the anthropocentrism of its world view, has long demonstrated that all science fiction is really about the present. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; on view October 7 – February 20, 2022; $18/free to members; skirball.org.
Highway 62 Open Studios Art Tour, Morongo Basin. A 20-year tradition billing this year as a “comeback,” the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council’s beloved annual excursion offers access to the proliferation of galleries, artist studios, maker workshops, cultural centers, architectural marvels, nonprofit venues and performance events that makes the Joshua Tree region the perennial destination for cultural seekers that it has been and remains. Self-guided tours featuring 100 stops in Pioneertown, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, 29 Palms and more happen throughout the region for three weekends in October. Saturday-Sunday, October 9-10, 16-17, 23-24; free; hwy62arttours.org.
Witch Hunt, at the Hammer & ICA LA. An exhibition of 15 projects by 16 women artists from 13 countries, the scope of Witch Hunt’s examination of gender and power is too great for one venue — so the Hammer and the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles teamed up, splitting curatorial and hosting duties to host this cadre of ambitious works at both locations. Inventive and often collaborative and recombinant forms of painting, sculpture, video, photography, sound and performance interrogate dynamics of oppression, erasure, resistance and liberation within queer/feminist/decolonialist movements in art and visual culture. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Hammer Museum (Westwood) and the ICA LA (downtown); works are on view at both sites, October 10 – January 9, 2022; free; hammer.ucla.edu | theicala.org.
Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works, 1990-2003, at Palm Springs Art Museum. Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) was a rare figure in American art — a woman who ran with the “big boys” of mid-century Abstract Expressionism and not only forged for herself a totally unique and indelibly recognizable technique and style that earned her acclaim and success during her lifetime. In her later years, she continued to work with her interpretive choreographies of charcoal, crayon, pastel, pen and ink, and of course her trademark acrylic wash pushed through and dragged across the very large canvases she favored. But at a certain point, enormous sheets of paper proved easier for her to work with — to particular effect on her lushly flat surfaces. The 20 paintings on paper and 10 paintings on canvas, all on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, will be a unique opportunity to examine her late-career works and the delightful results of her negotiations with the materials. 101 N. Museum Dr., Palm Springs; Opens October 14; $14; psmuseum.org.
Sun & Sea, at MOCA Geffen. If you know anyone who attended the 2019 Venice Biennale, or even if you just followed along at a distance, then you’ve heard about the rather show-stealing (and Golden Lion-winning) Sun & Sea. An unconventionally staged contemporary opera, sort of an aerially-viewed slow-motion tableaux vivant, it takes place on a beach amid piles of sand, searingly bright lights, the sound of crashing waves and playful children, the growls of motor boats and other industrial disruptions, and hints from deep within the planet that Mother Earth has just about had it with us. People went nuts for the production, and since then it’s been on a world tour — which finally arrives in L.A. for a three-day engagement at the MOCA Geffen, as the Hammer and CAP UCLA joined forces with MOCA to bring the 13 vocalists — and 10 tons of sand — to downtown. The production’s touring vocalists will be supported by members of L.A.-based choral group Tonality. 152 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo; Thursday – Saturday, October 14-16; $25; moca.org.
The Obama Portraits Tour at LACMA. When the official portraits of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were unveiled in 2018, they generated nearly as much star power as the Obamas themselves. Kehinde Wiley transmutes his signature style and well-known use of symbolism-rich botanical motifs to express the President’s unique intercontinental heritage in lush and iconographically specific foliage; while Amy Sherald’s portrait of the former First Lady evokes a timeless yet modern elegance and serene, bare-armed strength, with an evocative and regal textile and a luminous, classical field of sky blue. The heartfelt emotions and cheeky memes started almost immediately, and the popularity of the works has not diminished. The portraits’ five-city tour takes them through Chicago, Brooklyn, Houston, Atlanta and, this November, Los Angeles. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; On view November 7 – January 2, 2022; $20; lacma.org.
Umar Rashid at Blum & Poe. When the Weekly reviewed a recent exhibition by Rashid (aka Frohawk Two Feathers), we wrote that the artist, “practices a cheerful, bloody anti-Imperialist critique of colonialism in his art, using an eccentric folkloric visual style to radically reimagine power structures of geopolitical violence. He regularly generates fantastical, fully imagined societal mythologies – sweeping sagas of war, conquest, religion, enslavement, revolution and state-sponsored pageantry. For most of this enterprise the timing and location of these epics has been along the distant past/parallel universe/counterfactual history continuum, with densely detailed, finely narrated and character-driven narratives that seemed both familiar and plausible as far-off, untold origin stories.” Increasingly, these stories are overlaid with the Angeleno mythology; and his star-turn at the Hammer’s 2020 Made in L.A. biennial was also thoroughly impressive. We can’t wait to experience the new work being created for his forthcoming solo show this Fall. 2727 S. La Cienega, Culver City; November 6 — December 18; free; blumandpoe.com.
Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall at the Natural History Museum. Few scientists have captured the popular imagination, much less the hearts of millions, like Dr. Jane Goodall. Her pioneering work in primatology, her world-changing insistence on the dignity and individuality of her chimpanzee family and methodologies to learn from and protect them and their habitats has had transcendent implications for global environmentalism and progressive human society. A new multimedia exhibition offers hands-on and immersive aspects to learn more about her life and work, and hopefully be inspired to carry on her legacy. 900 Exposition Blvd., downtown; opens November 7; $7-15; free to all L.A. County residents daily, 3-5pm; nhm.org.