The best things in life are free – or for the beautifully cheap price of $5, which is the most expensive item we're featuing in this week's blog post. There's an exciting spread of photography, art exhibitions, dialogue and a night time art festival. And if you feel like all those free events are too much for your plate, why not add on a helping of brunch? The serving you pay for will actually help a good cause.
1. Check Out Frida's Photos
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is known for her iconic unibrow almost as much as her art. Her creativity blossomed during her explosive marriage to fellow Mexican painter Diego Rivera, when she posed for a series of self-portraits that became emblematic of her painting career. But Kahlo wasn't just an artist – she was a conduit for the creative energy around her. At 18, she suffered injuries in a bus accident, which left her with nearly a dozen fractures in one leg and a broken spinal column, collarbone, pelvis and ribs. The remainder of Kahlo's adulthood was marked by profound pain, yet the cultivation of her self-image transformed her into a legendary figure whose life became part of her art. Kahlo's collection of photos gives a glimpse into her world. But they don't just give us an idea of what Kahlo found visually compelling – the pictures reflect a highly personal (and professional) emotional intimacy with fellow artists such as Man Ray and Edward Weston. Nearly 60 years after her death, the Museum of Latin American Art displays “Frida Kahlo, Her Photos,” featuring more than 200 examples of her work. Quetzal and Metralleta de Oro play the opening-night party on Saturday, followed by the free, communitywide Fridamania Women's Day Festival on Sunday, with a look-alike contest, discussions about Kahlo and contemporary female artists presenting their Kahlo-inspired work. Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach; Sat., March 15, 7:30 p.m.-mid.; free for members, $20 for non-members; show runs through June 18. Fridamania Women's Day Festival, Sun., March 16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; free. (562) 437-1689, molaa.org/fridakahloherphotos.aspx. ? – Tanja M. Laden
2. Attend a Hot Dish Brunch Party
Attracting a crowd for a literary event can be tough, but Hot Dish founders Summer Block Kumar and J. Ryan Stradal have come up with a way to make readings more appetizing: Provide homemade brunch and mimosas. Hot Dish is a curated food event (past events have been themed around desserts and school lunches) held quarterly, with a rotating cast of culinary and literary contributors. This Sunday's Hot Dish Brunch Party, a fundraiser for 826LA's educational programs, features writer-comedian Sara Benincasa, comic-book writer Erin Hickey, novelist Cari Lynn and short-story writers Tommy Moore, Zoe Ruiz and Eric Stolze. Novelist Kate Maruyama will bake scones, Los Angeles editor Elina Shatkin will put her Scooby-Doo pancake maker to good use, and poet Kima Jones will bring the bacon (turkey bacon, that is), while Hickey will cater to the vegan crowd. Bring a book to trade with the Book Bound Mobile Library so you can digest some new reading material post-feast. 826LA, 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; Sun., March 16, 11:30 a.m.; $5. (213) 413-3388, 826la.org. – Jennifer Swann
3. Learn About Water
Water, water everywhere – and not a drop to drink that hasn't been outsourced by Danone, Pepsi, Coca-Cola or Nestlé. This week's trenchant question from the good folk at Zócalo – Will We Ever Have Clean Water for All? – examines why almost a billion people in the world are dosed with various poisons whenever they try to take a sip, and how 2.5 billion don't even have access to a flush toilet. Moderated by Occidental College political economist Sanjeev Khagram, this depressing but necessary dialogue places the United States – with its water-balloon fights, summertime sprinklers and opulent goldfish – in stark contrast to the rest of the world, which still struggles to figure out how to get this least expensive and most basic of all possible potables. Special guests include experts with long job titles from the Metropolitan Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board, Arizona State University and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Water you gonna do if you miss this one? MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Mon., March 17, 7:30 p.m.; free with RSVP. (213) 626-6222, zocalopublic?square.org. – David Cotner
4. See the sights at ArtNight Pasadena
If it's spring, it's time for a new edition of ArtNight Pasadena, the ever-expanding, seasonal mini festival spotlighting the city's proliferation of culture. On this night, loads of galleries, theaters, alternative venues and public spaces stay open late, offering art, music, dance, performance and kids stuff. Of special interest to the visual arts – minded will be the lively painting survey “Caught Looking: Simone Gad, Tracy Nakayama, Ruby Neri, Lauralee Pope, Mary Weatherford” at the Armory Center for the Arts and the impressive crop of ongoing exhibitions at the nearby Pasadena Museum of California Art, including “Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California,” a collection of politically charged work by exciting printmakers in “Serigrafía,” and the innovative and haunting multiplatform installation “Flora Kao: Homestead.” Farther afield but worth the effort are the recently opened Art Center exhibition focusing on the life and work of Ray Eames; and a special preview of Offramp Gallery's new show featuring magical and mysterious books manipulated by Susan Sironi. Offramp's proper opening is Sunday afternoon, but in honor of ArtNight, the gallery throws a garden party with live music and avant-garde balloon art. Check the ArtNight website for a full roster of exhibitions, venues, set times and food truck schedules – as well as maps for self-guiding and routes for free-shuttle riding. Pasadena City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Ave., Pasadena; Fri., March 14, 6-10 p.m.; free. (626) 744-7887, artnightpasadena.org. – Shana Nys Dambrot
5. Check out Art at the Pacific Design Center
The majority of the contemporary art galleries in the Pacific Design Center have recently moved on to greener (aka more affordable) pastures, but the ones that are left are pretty good. Young Projects Gallery is still showing the best video-art program in the city, and the Art Merge Lab isn't slowing down, either, this week opening a group exhibition that explores how artists who are not necessarily photographers use photography as the foundation of their work. “Reconstruct: Bryan Bankston, Julia Elsas, Joseph Lee, and Liz Steketee” brings together a set of such artists, whose works of portraiture blow straight past likeness and delve deep into the more ambiguous territory of private and collective memory, history and commerce, document and fiction. Though the works in the show deploy digital media, painting, collage and other visual strategies, they all start with photographs – family pictures, fashion spreads, vintage prints, and digital streams. Whether by accentuating or blotting out, exaggerating, inventing, or redacting aspects of the depicted figures, each of these artists finds a unique way to examine how images of identity are literally constructed from an amalgam of experiences. Art Merge Lab, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., B257, W. Hlywd.; Tue., March 18, 5-8:30 p.m.; free. Continues Tue.-Fri., noon-5 p.m., through April 25. (310) 913-1133, art?mergelab.com. – S.N.D.