Here we are again, friends, trying to keep culture top of mind from our desks and couches. Each week I’m more impressed and astonished with the creative community’s ability to figure out how. An array of streaming talks, screenings, book events, original dance and opera made for the “small screen” and a very drag queen Christmas make it easy, a handful of safety-forward galleries keep their doors open as long as possible, and an international multi-platform live event seeks to bridge the gaps.
Thursday, December 10
Senga Nengudi Screening & Conversation at Sprüth Magers. A two-part virtual event. First, Thursday, view Barbara McCullough’s groundbreaking film Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space (1981, 60 min.), an experimental exploration of the importance of ritual and ceremony in the lives and work of African American creators. McCullough captures Nengudi’s performance Ceremony for Freeway Fets (1978) along with works and words by David Hammons and Betye Saar, among others. Then on Friday, a live conversation between Nengudi, McCullough and Naima J. Keith, LACMA’s Vice President of Education and Public Programs, over Zoom. Screening: Thursday, December 10, 11am-9pm; Conversation: Friday, December 11, 11am; spruethmagers.com.
Listening for the Unsaid at David Kordansky Gallery. A virtual artist walkthrough of the online exhibition Listening for the Unsaid, curated by The Racial Imaginary Institute. Exhibiting artists including Azikiwe Mohammed, Kiyan Williams, Nona Faustine, and Public Assistants will describe the works they have contributed and discuss how these works feature in their broader practices. Members of the curatorial team will also lead a conversation about the exhibition’s core themes. Thursday, December 10, 3pm; davidkordanskygallery.com.
In Conversation: Black Futures with Jenna Wortham, Kimberly Drew, and Texas Isaiah at CAAM. Assembled by writer, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew and New York Times staff writer Jenna Wortham, Black Futures is a rich collection of images, essays, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more. Together they tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today. Join a zoom conversation with Drew, Wortham, and photographer Texas Isaiah as they celebrate the release of the forthcoming book. Thursday, December 10, 5-6:30pm; free; caamuseum.org.
Friday, December 11
Frame Rate: Gabriel Madan at LAND. What do professional wrestling and steroids, Nancy Grace, Willie Nelson, and Janis Joplin have in common? In his video Legacy Pipebomb, Madan layers these seemingly disparate figures and subjects, with personal interludes. The video also introduces the concept of Kayfabe — the performed fictional entertainment that is the hallmark of wrestling. Friday, December 11, 4pm; free; eventbrite.com.
Daniel Healy: 3M (Letraset) at Gallery 169. 3M (Letraset) is an extension of Healey’s engagement with the historical Postwar Avant-Garde as he remixes found objects and mundane materials, such as Scotch tape, old consumer catalogues, vintage papers, and Letraset into new, unexpected forms. Healey’s experiments engage with the aesthetic strategies and procedures of his artistic predecessors — such as Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage — which challenge notions of the self-contained and autonomous by employing Dada-like chance operations as foils to subjective decision making. Gallery 169, 169 W. Channel Rd., Santa Monica; by appointment, December 11 – January 21; gallery169.com.
The Five Moons of Lorca at LA Opera. LA Opera’s series of newly commissioned music videos, Digital Shorts, kicks off with The Five Moons of Lorca (Las cinco lunas de Lorca) by Gabriela Lena Frank. Taking inspiration from the assassination of poet Federico García Lorca at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the piece conveys the beauty of García Lorca’s life as well as its tragic end, while serving as a commentary for the dangers of political and cultural intolerance. December 11 – 25; free; laopera.org.
Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at Center Theatre Group. The Car Man is loosely based on Bizet’s popular opera Carmen and has one of the most instantly recognisable scores in New Adventures’ repertory, brilliantly arranged by Terry Davies. The familiar 19th-century Spanish cigarette factory of the opera becomes a greasy garage-diner in the American midwest of the 1960s. The arrival of a handsome stranger disturbs the dreams and passions of those who live and work there. Fuelled by heat and desire, the townsfolk are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge. Friday, December 11 – Sunday, December 13, $10; centertheatregroup.org.
Saturday, December 12
Cara Levine at Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Levine is an artist exploring the intersections of the physical, metaphysical, traumatic, and illusionary through sculpture, video and socially engaged practice. She is the founder of This Is Not A Gun, a multidisciplinary project aiming to create awareness around police brutality and activism through collective creative action. As part of her ongoing residency at TSALA, Levine has installed nearly 300 ceramic objects made by individuals from all over the country over the last four years. TSALA, Bendix Building, 1206 Maple, downtown; open by appointment through January 3; Saturday, December 12, 4pm reading and meditation on IGTV at @thisisnotagun.
All Dolled Up: The 40th Annual Black Doll Show at William Grant Still Arts Center. A 40 Year Celebration of the William Grant Still Arts Center’s Annual Black Doll Show will open online in December and roll out in three parts with three themes: Getting Dolled Up on December 12, Going to the Club on January 9, and The Gala on February 6. This year presents a retrospective that will reflect 40 years of Black Dolls, continuing to honor the diversity and uniqueness of the Black community, through an exhibition of historic, artistic, and commercial dolls. Opening reception: Saturday, December 12, 4-6pm; free; eventbrite.com.
Jackie Beat: Christmas is NOT Canceled! The big and bawdy, bold and ballsy queen’s holiday shows are legendary, and this year (her 22nd annual holiday show) she’s going virtual, livestreaming her festive freak-out right into your living room. Whatever you celebrate, watch for Jackie’s holiday classics and new song parodies aimed at everything you cherish. Plus, this year some of Jackie’s “friends” are popping by to join in the holiday spirit! Who’s that knocking on the door? Jackie’s expecting Alan Cumming, Alaska, Bianca del Rio, Elvira, Leslie Jones, Margaret Cho, Mario Diaz, Parker Posey, Peaches Christ, Peppermint and so many others! Show streams live Saturday, December 12 at 5pm & 8pm; Sunday, December 13 at 11am, $20; stellartickets.com.
Inaugural Exhibitions at Thinkspace’s New Location. Dutch artist Stefan Thelen, better known by his moniker Super A, creates hyperreal murals and studio paintings that explore the world of human contradiction. Manuel Zamudio is inspired by great works of cinematography, street art, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels. Kyle Bryant’s aesthetic borders on the edge of a believable reality. A fine artist focusing on woodcut printmaking, Bryant recently took his oeuvre into a new direction, by adding layering and dimension to his wood-carved works. Thinkspace, 4217 W. Jefferson Blvd., West Adams; Exhibitions on view by appointment, December 12 – January 2; opening reception: Saturday, December 12, noon-6pm; thinkspaceprojects.com.
Edward Walton Wilcox: Are You Still With Me? and Todd Carpenter: When Dreams Absolve Daylight at KP Projects. Wilcox: “Every image created by man from the beginning of time is a glyph of his reflection: the world of experiences. Now recorded in an instant, an image is created as a conjuring of sorts; a narrow sign in a gallery of thought, sometimes untranslatable to the passing viewer. The nature of representation is not limited to graphic signifiers but directs the attention beyond language to a higher plane of thought.” Carpenter: “While at the moment most real places are out of reach, I hope that these paintings might still tap into our connections to the landscape, to possibly convey traces of the greater outside world. So it is that these scenes are mostly imagined, depicting ideals encoded in our genes and manifest in our dreams, portrayals of that which gives life to landscapes, as temporary surrogates for real life.” KP Projects, 633 N. La Brea, Hollywood; Opening reception: Saturday, December 12, noon-6pm; kpprojects.net.
Sunday, December 13
Con Alma. A live binational communal experience broadcast from Mexico City and New York City. Ashley Tata, currently an artist-in-residence at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and one of the foremost theatrical and multimedia directors around, is creating the live digital experience of music videos, live-drawings by Kevork Mourad, and real-time storytelling with the creators and performers of these works, across time zones and national boundaries. The Con Alma launch event combines pre-filmed musical performance, live performance art, recorded audio, and live unscripted conversation. The goal is to create a sense of connection and ephemerality in the digital space — though we cannot be together in the same place geographically, we can still be together in time, sharing a common experience together. There’s also a social media campaign currently running, which allows people all over the world to lend their voices and ideas to the project. Anyone can submit a video of themselves that will be woven into the live event. Live Event: Sunday, December 13, 4pm; conalmaproject.com. After December 13, the concert experience will be available on allarts.org.
Ligia Lewis: deader than dead at The Hammer. In her practice Lewis takes on a variety of roles — choreographer, director, dancer, performer — staging her work in different types of venues, including theaters, galleries, and museums. She carefully considers how the site of presentation shapes the experience of her work, how a body is ultimately seen. Each of her pieces explores genre through different forms of physical expression and a rotating cast of performers. Though Lewis focuses primarily on the point of friction between tragedy and comedy, melodrama and stasis, her work vacillates between the familiar and the unfamiliar. With rigor and detail, she utilizes the entire figure of the body as a space to develop expressive concepts. This piece is a reconfigured version of what she had planned to execute in the museums’ spaces during the pandemic-postponed Made in L.A. 2020, now presented instead as a spliced, multi-channel video. Now streaming; hammer.ucla.edu.