January is always a great excuse to reset the big-show calendar with a fresh season, and it’s also the run-up to the new tradition of Art Week Los Angeles (don’t call it Frieze Week) in February. That will be its own weather system, and more to come on that later. In the meantime, here are 12 exhibitions — from kings of Pop to queens of new history, diasporic and hyper-local visions, mixed media extravaganzas, and tech-forward adventures — that already have our full attention, and they haven’t even opened yet.
Kehinde Wiley: Colorful Realm at Roberts Projects
The gallery inaugurates its new Mid-Wilshire space with the latest body of work from superstar Kehinde Wiley — a 17th century Japanese-influenced series that, while it continues with the artist’s signature heroic portraiture and botanical motif, goes to a more minimal (at least by Wiley’s standards) aesthetic mode. Rather than vehemently lush, verdant, blossoming plant life for which he is known, in these works, the arboreal presence is fragile, fragmented, and hovering in voided spaces. This changes not only the human dynamic within the embedded narrative, but also strikes a more pensive emotional tone with the viewer, enacting a different kind of critique on imperialist conventions of art history — one that seems to trade celebration for caution. 442 S. La Brea, Mid-Wilshire; Jan. 21 – April 8; Opening Reception Saturday, Jan. 21, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; robertsprojectsla.com.
Alison Saar: Uproot at L.A. Louver
Sculptor, painter and printmaker Alison Saar’s infinite and ineffable permutations of reclamation borrow from centuries of folk traditions, fine art paradigms, and pop culture references to generate modern ancestral embodiments of Black female power and agency. Centered in experiences written on bodies in history and lived experience, Saar’s purview extends from commentary on the persistent misunderstanding of Black hair, to the transcendence of music, the mythology and murderous reality of the Middle Passage, and the kaleidoscope of joy, pain, triumph and tribulation whose contours trace the Black experience in America. In Uproot, this vision lands on a set of narratives about the ancient and present-day struggle for abortion rights as a key facet of true freedom — the right to control one’s own body in every setting. 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; Jan. 25 – March 11; Opening reception: Wednesday, Jan. 25, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; lalouver.com.
Alicia Piller: Within at Craft Contemporary
Mixed media sculptor Alicia Piller and super-curator jill moniz have conceptualized an environmental installation in a massive, fractal choreography of resin, latex, xeroxes, dried plants, stones, and an array of found objects and salvaged materials with their own narrative backstories. Piller’s special gift has been to repurpose the scraps, armatures, and byproducts of garments and body-centric design into tumultuous, evocative, abstract, biomorphic, architectural objects and material gestures. In this exhibition, her vision grows in scale and scope to create a more operatic, immersive space, which must be entered rather than merely observed — in the name of presenting not only the results of her recombinant cultural rescues, but a look inside the system of elemental forces that animate them. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; Jan. 29- May 7; Opening reception: Saturday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; craftcontemporary.org.
Amir H. Fallah: The Fallacy of Borders at the Fowler Museum
Across painting, sculpture, stained glass, and textiles — all bursting with an intoxicating overload of rich, fine detail, chromatic adventurism, personal, cultural, and geopolitical symbolism, and art historical wit — Amir H. Fallah investigates persistent questions of identity, intimacy, biography, knowledge, duty of care, diaspora, and legacy. Within a deliberate fusion of inherited and invented citations from literature, pop culture, and global traditions, Fallah weaves together ornate compositions of shrouded figures, dense patterns in florals and textiles, trompe l’oeil motifs of windows and stretcher bars, meaningful objects like photographs and jewelry borrowed from the private altars of his sitters, to create masterpieces of casual surrealism and profound humanity. 308 Charles E. Young Dr., Westwood; Jan. 29 – May 14; Opening reception: Saturday, Jan. 28, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; fowler.ucla.edu.
Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982 at LACMA
Every generation thinks they’re the first to have ideas. And while it’s true that art has well and truly entered an unprecedented era of computing and digital modalities, that only makes it more imperative than ever to consider the contexts and historical origins of this affection for coding. As early as 1950, artists — not to mention writers, musicians, choreographers and filmmakers — were, as they so often are, on the cutting edge of curiosity about the arrival of mediums of the future. This survey examines not only these early forays into a brave new world of art-making that directly involved manipulating and mediating the available technology, but also many for whom the cultural and societal implications of computing, as well as the psychological and cognitive shifts that would inevitably follow, were a subject of their own. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; Feb. 12 – July 2; lacma.org.
George Condo: People Are Strange at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood
Hauser & Wirth will inaugurate its second Los Angeles gallery space with a suite of new paintings by George Condo, an artist known for his visceral, ambivalent, vivisected portraits that balance abstraction with grotesquerie, Cubism with cartoonishness, and emotional purge with elusive theatrics. It’s hard to get a read on the pictures as portraits, but it’s a spiky delight to follow along as the artist’s hand rips them apart and puts them back together all cattywampus and color blind. In a specific reference to a Doors song whose double entendre suits both Condo’s enterprise and the enduring appeal of L.A.’s erstwhile counterculture, the series speaks to the universal strangeness of the human race and to the specific strangeness of his paintings of them — and by extension, of the world around us. 8980 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Feb. 15 – April 22; hauserwirth.com.
Refik Anadol: Living Paintings at Jeffrey Deitch
So, one way to paint a picture of say, the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California is to go to the beach or cliffs and paint it. But as legend of AI and dataset art Refik Anadol would like you to know, there’s another way to paint California — a way built of pixels and code and a supercomputer, but no less susceptible to its organic marine allure. Imagine that instead of endless hours in the sand and salty air, you fed an algorithm the available environmental data from oceans and nearby national parks like wind speed, temperature and air pressure, and then asked the intelligence to make you an ocean. With data doing the work of pigment, and motion enacted rather than described or captured frozen — with a seductive, plausible life force of perpetual motion and a perfectly honed palette that is undeniably aquatic — the fractals and currents in Anadol’s oceans are convincing enough to give you seasickness, but never seek to hide their generative origins. 925 N. Orange Dr., Hollywood; Feb. 18 – April 8; deitch.com.
Desert X 2023
Famous for keeping details including artists’ names and advance images under wraps until the last minute, nevertheless after three previous editions, audiences have gotten the hang of the Desert X experience by now. Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and 2023 co-curator Diana Campbell have been working to expand on the cyclical project’s core themes of land use, indigenous history and cinematic mythology, climate, the journey-as-destination ethos. With an array of large-scale and more intimate interventions, and fleeting occupations of the desert’s expanses and town-adjacent edges, and with work that sparks both joy and debate, the ongoing promise of Desert X is to both universalize and deconstruct the experience of this captivating region. Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Coachella Valley locations; March 4 – May 7; desertx.org.
Myrlande Constant: The Work of Radiance at the Fowler Museum
A star in contemporary Haitian art for three decades, Myrlande Constant is having a great year — with a breathtaking turn at this year’s Venice Biennale and a smash exhibition at New York gallery Fort Gansevoort, and now, her first solo exhibition at a U.S. museum. Her large-scale, aggressively decorated, hand-beaded textile-based works are wonders of both craft and vision, as she employs and enhances a folkloric aesthetic to render narrative episodes from a blurry continuum of mythology and political history, enacting post-colonial, shamanistic critique, while simultaneously provoking exuberant revelry in objects of ritual beauty and scenes of mermaids, sea creatures, prayer, revenge, and power colors. 308 Charles E. Young Dr., Westwood; March 26 – July 16; fowler.ucla.edu.
Rita McBride: Particulates at the Hammer Museum
The Hammer’s new bank gallery opens with an installation of lasers, shadows and water that create an illusionistic work of dematerialized sculpture. Both an environment and an object — as well as a meditation on the aesthetic of time travel, the poetics of quantum physics, the principles of Light and Space, and the power of art to create monumental experience with relatively simple materials — gravity, mist and projected light do an architectural dance that focus the eye and engages the mind. Able to be entered during museum hours and visible from Wilshire Blvd at night, Particulates both embraces and transcends its setting in the pursuit of a phenomenological activation. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; March 26 – Nov. 5; hammer.ucla.edu.
Women Defining Women In Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond at LACMA
An inherently wide-ranging exhibition surveying contemporary art by women who hail from Muslim countries and cultures, this project promises a radical update to the stereotypes of women Islamic societies as powerless. Far from monolithic, the global community of women artists from these backgrounds is as diverse in material, style, visual and linguistic idiom, lived experience, context, engagement in politics, sexual dynamics, science, struggle, escapism, activism, storytelling, and self-expression as any women — but the constraints placed on their daily lives by oppressively gendered patriarchal structures in global and diaspora contexts is, or ought to be, of universal concern. In particular in light of recent and ongoing events, now is a great time to give them this platform and amplify their voices directly. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; April 23 – Sept. 24; lacma.org.
Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody at The Broad
Somehow this will be the first major Los Angeles museum exhibition dedicated to the game-changing artist Keith Haring, whose energetic and prolific output managed to seamlessly fuse the outrageous joyfulness of wild 1980s street-infused pop with urgent agitation for social justice issues from AIDS to the environment. This exhibition draws on decades of Haring’s works from the personal to the public and monumental, activist to educational, murals to merch, to give a well-rounded survey, biographical in scope, celebrating his accessible and enduring appeal. In addition to scores of works of art, documentation and ephemera, and an homage to his own anti-capitalist entrepreneurship, the show offers more immersive aspects like the staging of music playlists Haring curated during his life — in the perfect example of a fresh, fulsome look at an artist we think we already know. 221 S. Grand Ave., downtown; May 27 – Oct. 8; thebroad.org.
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