You’re not the only one obsessing about the election right now, a fact reflected in the panoply of politically engaged exhibitions, performances, readings, and programs populating this weekend’s arts and culture calendar. But we’re only human, so there’s a little bit of Halloweeny tricky treats too. So stay home, dress up, plug in, get your candy coma on — whatever makes you happy, as long as you make time to vote.
Friday, October 30
Metabolic Studio Optics Division: Desiccated Capitol at CMay Gallery. A solo exhibition by the Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio — a collaborative practice among artists Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen, and Tristan Duke. In December of 2018 began the longest shutdown of the federal government in United States history. At the center of the 35-day shutdown was a partisan dispute over funding for the US-Mexico border wall in the federal budget. Over the course of the impasse, Optics Division carried out an artist action, immersing a series of their mural-sized photographic prints of the US Capitol Building in long, shallow reflecting pools. As the shutdown continued, these giant photographs stewed in the swamp of their own decaying emulsion. Only when a budget for funding the government was finally passed, five weeks later, were the prints allowed to dry. The resulting works trace a record of social/political breakdown. CMay Gallery, 5828 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; October 30 – January 9, 2021; by appointment; cmaygallery.com.
Dear 2020: virtual spoken word and poetry performance. We need to talk about 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, pervasive racial injustice, and the election have given us platforms to reflect and build powerful conversations as a society. Tonight The Ink Project and PEN America would like to start that conversation, through spoken word, poetry, or monologue starting with the phrase “Dear 2020.” Friday, October 30, 4-5:15pm; pen.org.
Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee Artists Talk at 18th Street Arts Center. In Becoming Atmosphere, Beatriz Cortez and Kang Seung Lee imagine disappearance as a process of transformation, movement, nomadism, and becoming. Considering the final work of Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, the artists imagine freeing the potentialities of a life from the constraints of identity. Drawing from the writings of Emanuele Coccia, they consider the concept of the atmosphere as “the essence of cosmic fluidity, the deepest face of our world, the one that reveals it as the infinite mixture of all things, present, past, and future,” and explore the idea of breathing as a statement against white supremacy. In this exhibition opening event, the artists discuss their new work in 18th Street Arts Center’s Airport Gallery, their collaboration, and how they are responding to the current moment. Virtual opening: Friday, October 30, 5pm; on view by appointment through February 5, 2021; 18thstreet.org.
Saturday, October 31
Nasty Women at Gavlak. Situated between two historical moments, Nasty Women commemorates the one-hundredth anniversary of the 19th amendment’s ratification, guaranteeing women’s suffrage, and also coincides with the 2020 presidential election. Works by Candida Alvarez, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Delia Brown, Karen Carson, Gisela Colón, Jenny Holzer, Jesse Mockrin, Ebony G. Patterson and Trulee Hall act as a defiant gesture of solidarity amongst women and LGBTQ+ artists whose rights are under threat due to the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. By appropriating “nasty women” to be all-inclusive, the exhibition celebrates, recognizes and gives a platform to a diverse array of perspectives and female voices throughout 500 years of art history. Gavlak Gallery, 1700 S. Santa Fe, downtown; October 31 – December 12, by appointment; gavlakgallery.com.
Travis Louie: Curious Beasts at KP Projects. Louie has created his own imaginary world that is grounded in Victorian and Edwardian times. It is inhabited by human oddities, mythical beings, and otherworldly characters who appear to have had their formal portraits taken to mark their existence. The underlying thread that connects all these characters is the unusual circumstances that shape who they were and how they lived. KP Projects, 633 N. La Brea; Hollywood; opening reception: Saturday, October 31, 1-6pm; kpprojects.net.
Generator at MOAH Lancaster. Composed by Lori Scacco and performed by two cellos, the work explores interconnectivity through resonance, echoing energy that travels through land and body to generate and transmit power across thousands of miles. Performed in a sculptural installation designed by Debra Scacco in the open of the Mojave, the desert landscape is an integral part of the work. In-person reservations are being taken for a socially distant, seated performance in the dusty expanse of Platform’s desert location, but the performance will also be broadcast live. 138 W. Avenue G4, Lancaster, and simulcast on Facebook; Saturday, October 31, 5:30-6:30pm; free; lancastermoah.org.
Sunday, November 1
Renee Petropoulos: Like a Street Full of Friends: Studies for Speculative Monuments at As.Is Gallery. Petropoulos takes a set of elite cultural references — the artworks often allude to literary figures important to the 20th century avant-garde — and sets this sophisticated content into tension with simple, demotic forms in 17 elegant, if modestly scaled, works on paper and a single sculptural maquette. The result is a presentation that holds the artist’s almost bombastic promise of monuments and monumentality temporarily in abeyance and slyly offers a richer, more subtle experience in its place. As.Is, 1133 Venice Blvd., downtown; on view November 1 – December 19, by appointment; as-is.la.
State of the Union by Maura Brewer and Paul Pescador at the Armory. A one-night Zoom performance, followed by a conversation between the artists moderated by Mandy Harris Williams. State of the Union is a debate that will take place the day after Halloween, two days before the presidential election (the spookiest day of the year!), and on Daylight Saving Time (fall back!). Artists Paul Pescador and Maura Brewer will face off on a variety of themes including victim complexes, tautological loops, and the fantasy of escape. The 1996 film Scream serves as a guide through which the artists explore archetypes of victim and killer in contemporary politics. Sunday, November 1, 5pm; armoryarts.org.
The People Speak at CAP UCLA. Produced by Anthony Arnove, co-editor with the late historian Howard Zinn of Voices of a People’s History of the United States, this dialog program brings to life the extraordinary history of the people who built the movements that ended slavery and Jim Crow, protested wars and the genocide of Native Americans, created unions and the eight-hour work day, and advanced women’s rights and LGBTQ liberation. The UCLA iteration of this ongoing project will feature Marisa Tomei, Morgan Spector, Staceyann Chin, Martha Redbone with Aaron Whitby, and more. Sunday, November 1, 7pm; cap.ucla.edu.
Rise Up L.A. — A Century of Votes for Women, online at Natural History Museum. Even after the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women — well, white women — the right to vote, the struggle for true equality in law and society continued, as it does to this day. Rise Up L.A. highlights women across Los Angeles who advocate for equality on the front lines as well as through everyday acts of bravery and courage. This online exhibition features unique stories, activities, and related events; and will, upon NHM’s eventual re-opening, feature more than 100 objects — including political buttons, protest posters, fliers, and ephemera — and stories about choices women faced in a century of struggle. nhm.org/rise-la-century-votes-women.