The world of online culture is abundant this week, with streaming art house cinema and a timely artist documentary, a powerful one-woman theater piece on activism, oy-inducing comedy, a conversation on personal visibility in art and society, art-inspired storytelling, tech-infused performance art, and the launch event for a new indie party channel shopping network.
Thursday, December 17
Be Present, Hold Space with Devon Tsuno at the Armory. The next bi-monthly series installment’s special guest is artist, environmentalist, avid fisherman and waterway aficionado Devon Tsuno. Tsuno will lead a discussion and tutorial on fishing, land acknowledgement, and exploring the outdoors. During the pandemic, folks are flocking to nature. How can we be present in the outdoors, catch fish, and hold space for those in the past, present, and future? If you have string or fishing tackle, you can practice basic and advanced fishing techniques with Devon. Thursday, December 17, 5pm; free; armoryarts.org.
The Deer at UCLA Film & Television Archive. Farhang Foundation presents the long-suppressed 1974 Iranian classic by writer-director Masoud Kimiai and starring screen legend Behrouz Vossoughi, as part of the Archive’s Virtual Screening Room series. There is a sense of an imminent revolution in this story of a former champ turned junkie who reunites with a leftist classmate and is redeemed by revolutionary anger. The screening includes a special introduction by director Masoud Kimiai. Streaming on demand December 17-31; $10; cinema.ucla.edu.
Friday, December 18
Breathe. Written and performed by Philicia Saunders, Breathe. is a form of art activism fusing live performance, cinema, performance art and artistic swimming in a hybridized narrative that could only be born during these challenging, yet galvanizing times. With the recent political, racial, and global unrest occurring throughout 2020, Saunders wrote and stars in this one-woman live theater show, in which she plays more than 20 characters including herself at different points in her own life, based on her personal journey towards activism after a chance trip to a Civil Rights monument, and mentorship by a luminary of activism, Sweet Alice Harris — one of Watts, CA’s most beloved community organizers. Performance with audience talk-back on YouTube Live, Friday December 18, 5pm; tickets start at $5; eventbrite.com/e/breathe-a-solo-experience.
Philip Guston: A Life Lived at Hauser & Wirth. To celebrate the opening of Philip Guston. Transformation at the gallery’s St. Moritz location, Hauser & Wirth presents an online screening of this 1981 film directed by Michael Blackwood. Filmed in 1971 at his Woodstock studio and during his 1980 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this iconic documentary provides an intimate look at the visionary American painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) as he speaks candidly about his philosophy of painting and the psychological motivation for his work. Streaming Friday, December 18 – Sunday, December 20; free; hauserwirth.com.
Master Debater at East Side Jews. Two Jews, three opinions. You’ve heard the phrase, now see it live. Join East Side Jews as we journey virtually into your actual living rooms, with a night of hot debate over ever the most pressing issues of Jewish tradition. From sour cream vs. apple sauce to Weird Al fans vs. Matisyahu fans, by the end of the night we will know which legends reign supreme. Friday, December 18, 8pm; tickets start at $5; sijcc.net.
Saturday, December 19
Invisibility(ies) conversation series at Acogedor. The series explores the idea of being invisible in society, family, the world. Saturday’s conversation will be with artists Toban Nichols, Kristine Schomaker, and Neena Wang. They will be exploring body, body image, and the aesthetics of body in the Western heterosexual norm. The conversation will be moderated by Acogedor founder and director, artist Nicole Rademacher. Saturday, December 19, 1pm; acogedor.space.
Maxwell McMaster: Expansions at Avenue des Arts. McMaster’s work typically takes inspiration from his native state. Maxwell uses color shape and texture to enhance and deepen scenes from his travels and everyday life. McMaster’s new body of work signifies an opening in the artist’s practice. Prompted by a personal spiritual path, as a guiding principle in life and work, he conceptualizes art as grounded in the immaterial. The birth of a new idea, or a new painting, is envisioned as open and fertile ground. Avenue des Arts, 807 S. Los Angeles St., downtown; IGTV opening reception: Saturday, December 19, 2pm; open by appointment December 19 – January 16; free; avenuedesarts.org.
The Art of Performance at dublab. Dublab x FEMMEBIT present the first A/V piece of a new project from musician Qur’an Shasheed and Chloe Scallion. The performances aim to create a physical and conceptual space that enriches and promotes the practice of Los Angeles musicians and visual artists. Funding from a dedicated grant has enabled both organizations to pair six visual artists with six musicians to create 6 all-new collaborative audiovisual performances. Saturday, December 19, 4pm; free; dublab.com.
The Moth Virtual StorySLAM at LACMA. The theme for the night is “After-hours,” inspired by artist Alex Prager’s installation Farewell, Work Holiday Parties currently on view. Moth StorySLAM is an open-mic storytelling experience that invites eight tellers to share a true, personal story on a given theme. The night ends with the audience voting for their favorite story, crowning the StorySLAM winner. Special guest Alex Prager will share the inspirations behind her artwork. Sign up as a storyteller for a chance to tell your tale on the virtual stage, following the prompt to prepare a five-minute story about “who you are when the sun sets.” Saturday, December 19, 7:30pm; $10; lacma.org.
Maypole.tv Launch Party. Maypole is a new app-based platform powering livestream shoppable events, especially designed for curators and creators. We lost a lot in 2020–including the special feeling of wandering into a cool boutique, creative studio or night market stall and chatting with the owner, watching them at work, soaking up the vibe. Compared to that, e-commerce is about as exciting as an aspirin. Maypole, a new livestream shopping platform, captures the energy of those fun and unique retail environments. With tons of special events, giveaways, discounts, and unique items, as well as live product drops, blind boxes, and secure purchasing, Maypole is the most exciting way to shop and engage in the live space where trends begin. Saturday, December 19, 7pm; maypole.tv.
Sunday, December 20
Zoë Charlton: My First Name is Hers at Iris Project. Charlton’s solo exhibition at Iris Project emphasizes the power and importance of the Black matriarch within her family history. Charlton’s maternal grandmother Everlena Bates was a domestic worker in Northern Florida, and while she never discussed the details of her work, generational memory bears the scars from labor abuses and injustices suffered by domestic workers throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. In her newest series, Charlton expands upon the concept of women as the source of life, particularly her grandmother’s role in cultivating her own sense of independence and creativity. IGTV walkthrough and conversation with John Goodwin, Sunday, December 20, 11am; irisproject.com.
PAINT: A Film by Michael Walker. “Are you really ready to live in this world?” One character asks this of another during a precious crisis of conscience, and it’s unclear if she means the art world or the world in general, but either way, it’s a good question. And in a sense it’s at the heart of the new film PAINT, which tracks the progress of a small group of recent MFA grads trying to make it in the New York City gallery scene. Dan, feeling creatively stymied by his own happy childhood and privileged background, sets out to make his paintings “darker” by convincing his mother to pose nude. He gets his dark, handsome, old-school bohemian friend Quinn (who lives in the most cold-water garrett imaginable) to take the pictures. That does not go as planned. Meanwhile Kelsey stumbles into a situation where she blackmails an art dealer into supporting her, gets a makeover, and has some memorable sexual misadventures of her own.
A story like this, set in Brooklyn and Chelsea, inevitably flirts with cliche, but this film proceeds with a suitably dry sense of humor and an empathetic, if snarky, affection for its characters’ foibles. A fourth friend, Austin, whose career has already taken off, a hip but upscale gallery at the center of their scene, the extended art world scrum of collectors and consultants — all of this is treated with insightful accuracy. It’s just the tiniest bit campy but/and thus ultimately quite true to life.
Most effectively, every time you see anyone’s art, it matches their personality, meshes perfectly with its and their role in the story, is believably contemporary, and is objectively quite good. The artwork shown is not a punchline, it all moves the story and sparks its own level of communication with the audience. Dan’s paintings especially are exquisite.
“Life as an artist is a constant battle between finding your voice and trying to figure out how to exist in the world,” says director Michael Walker. “The world right now takes artists and grinds them into content makers, and it’s important to fight that by putting your deepest, most personal thoughts on display. And that’s what I tried to do making this film.” Now available on VOD platforms including Comcast, Dish Network, Verizon Fios, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play, YouTube. pangofilms.com.