With all the historical L.A. exhibitions proliferating this fall, the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park wanted to show that it, too, played in important role in SoCal's art history. It did so with a minuscule exhibition (which seems even smaller if you stopped to see any dinosaurs on the way) in its rotunda that includes art it exhibited when it was still the L.A. County Museum of History, Science and Art. It includes awful, expressionistic paintings Robert Irwin and John Baldessari made before discovering heady minimalism, but a few truly great works by Mel Ramos and Billy Al Bengston. Somehow, it's charming to walk through history in that rotunda and see how the museum was both out of touch and in touch with the city's growing art scene. In a museum full of archeological specimens, even the failures feel like telling artifacts. 900 Exposition Blvd.; through Jan. 15. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org.

Mondays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 2. Continues through Jan. 15, 2011

LA Weekly