That was quite a day, week, year… And as the stirring brilliance of the poet Amanda Gorman at the inauguration proved yet again, so often it’s been the arts that have been seeing us through. This week, check out a new music series dedicated to Basquiat, interactive virtual theater about the L.A. River, a new international dance film series, performance art about politics, galleries offering impactful sculpture, photography and painting (by appointment), and a giant show of mail art on the theme of hope.
Thursday, January 21
Time Decorated: The Musical Influences of Jean-Michel Basquiat at The Broad. This video series dedicated to the iconic artist includes three segments — Jazz, Punk and No Wave, and Hip-Hop — in which creatives and scholars discuss the impact of music on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s style.
About this foundational impact, Ed Patuto, the Broad’s Director of Audience Engagement, tells the Weekly, “New York’s East Village in the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s was an incredibly prolific place for artists and culture. Divergent artistic expressions all melded into an unparalleled creative environment. Early hip-hop artists were welcomed in downtown clubs and found a receptive audience among the kids who had moved there to be part of the Punk and experimental No Wave scenes. While the NYC cops were arresting kids “armed” with spray cans, artists like Basquiat and Keith Haring were bringing visual art inspired by graffiti into the mainstream galleries.”
Recalling how at that time, young people were politicized by the AIDS crisis, police brutality and the scourge of Reaganomics, Patuto notes that, “No artist responded to and embodied this moment better than Jean Michel Basquiat. This series demonstrates how Basquiat’s work retains great relevance today because of the boundless energy and experimentation present in his visual art, his musical practices as well as his outspoken criticism of the racism he encountered in life and in the art world.”
The first installment of Time Decorated focuses on jazz and bebop, is produced by Quincy Jones Productions, and features L.A. jazz musician Terrace Martin. The series includes works by voices like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach. The Broad online; premieres Thursday, January 21; thebroad.org.
Friday, January 22
Crafting Cartographies: Mapping L.A. at the Fowler. UCLA has several digital projects that map Los Angeles and enable people to visualize and interact with the city’s layered histories, from sacred burial sites to beloved corner delis. This panel brings together contributors to Mapping Jewish Los Angeles, Mapping Indigenous L.A., and the Fowler’s Vermont Avenue project. The goal is to share the results of these digital projects; to better understand the city’s cultural and spiritual geographies; and to explore how this knowledge might inform museum practices. Friday, January 22, 4-5:30pm; free; fowler.ucla.edu.
Kristina Wong For Public Office at San Diego Rep. Kristina Wong is an actual elected representative of Koreatown, Los Angeles. But before she created this lively show about her current tenure in local government, she was already a performance artist with a penchant for reality television. Is there actually a difference between performance art and politics? Can she Abolish ICE? This 75-minute performance that crosses the aesthetics of campaign rallies, church revivals, and solo theater shows to tell the story of what it means to run for office, the history of voting, and perhaps most powerfully, the impact artists can have on democracy. Friday, January 22, 7pm; Saturday-Sunday, January 23-24, 2pm; $25; sdrep.org.
Saturday, January 23
Jenny Yurshansky Artist Talk: What’s In a Landscape? at Art in Residence. This conversation series invites artists to share their work, with a special focus on how landscape plays a role in their artistic process. Jenny Yurshansky uses a conceptual and research-based approach to explore the trauma of displacement, belonging and otherness, historical traces and social constructions, often through the allegorical lens of botany and the concept of native and invasive species in horticulture. Her work includes writing and a variety of materials such as cast, slumped, and found glass, charred steel, embroidered textiles, hand-cut paper silhouettes of plants, laser etched granite, and photography. Saturday, January 23, 2pm; free; eventbrite.com.
Josh Patterson: Forgotten at Bermudez Projects. Patterson’s photographs document places that have fallen off historical record — a tram tower in Saline Valley, Death Valley petroglyphs, an old mining cabin, desert byways. As an artist and explorer, Patterson thrives on traversing the unknown, allowing himself to discover and rediscover poignant sites of abandoned human enterprise, intuitively and organically. Bermudez Projects, 1225 Cypress Ave., NELA; Saturday, January 23, noon-6pm; on view by appointment through February 27; free; bermudezprojects.com.
Tiffanie Delune and Kaye Freeman: In the Midst of All That Is at Band of Vices. The title of the exhibition suggests a direct conversation with our current global challenges in regard to the pandemic and other social, political and economic ills. Yet both of these artists insist on searching for the joy and hope still to be found, particularly through the use of vibrant color palettes in real and imagined cityscapes. Band of Vices, 5376 W. Adams Blvd., West Adams; Opening Day: Saturday, January 23, noon-6pm; on view by appointment through February 20; free; bandofvices.com.
Robert Russell: Teacups at Anat Ebgi. Robert Russell consistently addresses ideas of memory, iconography, and mortality in a personal language that is attentive to beauty, the history of painting, and the role of photography. In his latest paintings, against a field of velvety black and decorated with blooming flowers, the gleaming porcelain festooned with bouquet motifs invokes the poignancy of memento mori and vanitas paintings, acting as reminders of life’s fragility. Anat Ebgi, 2660 S. La Cienega, Culver City; by appointment, January 23-March 6; free; anatebgi.com.
Galia Linn: Beauty Queen, Heartbreaker, High Maintenance at Track 16. Linn’s new body of work addresses how tradition and spirituality are imbued in ritual objects, in particular surrounding burial of the dead, and viewed through the lens of women’s empowerment. Her most recent sculptures expand her use of clays and pigment across the motifs of vessel and guardian that characterize her objects, evoking and reimagining entombment and protection, power and gender in fierce “masculine” forms painted in aggressively “feminine” colors — the better to recognize the equal pillars of humanity’s true strengths. Track 16, Bendix Building, 1206 Maple, downtown; on view by appointment January 23 – March 20; free; track16.com.
Sunday, January 24
Postmarked With Love: A Card Making and Rose Crafting Workshop for Marked by COVID and Rose River Memorial at Frogtown Arts. The importance of making and sharing art during difficult times has never been more clear. Join Elysian Valley Arts Collective, Marked By COVID and Rose River Memorial, along with artist and teacher Kait Walsh, for an afternoon of creativity to honor all of the lives lost. This virtual workshop will include inspiration and support in the creation of handmade cards for grieving families to be distributed by Marked By COVID, and felt roses to be added to a national art memorial. Supplies for cards: Paper such as cardstock, pre-made blank cards, index cards, grocery store paper bags and even cardboard, cut into 4×6 rectangles. Your favorite art materials (crayons, watercolor, colored pencil, glitter, pen, etc.). Supplies for roses (order/pick up): roseriver.memorial/supplies. Zoom; Sunday, January 24, 3-4:40pm; free; evartscollective.com.
Monday, January 25
Festival: Films.Dance. At the intersection of dance, music, fashion, and cinema, comes one of the most ambitious international dance film projects ever. Films.Dance engages more than 150 diverse artists from 52 cities in 25 countries, culminating in 15 short films made over the course of the pandemic. The Soraya and the Wallis teamed up with Chicago’s Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for the project, which is produced by L.A.-based Jacob Jonas The Company. Through non-traditional collaborations across cultures and continents, the series was filmed at locations from Amsterdam, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, London, Los Angeles, New York, Nigeria, and Spain. New films release weekly, January 25 – May 3; free; films.dance.
Internet Theater: Rio Reveals. A sort of multidisciplinary, interactive “choose your own adventure” performance piece, Rio Reveals is a project that began its life as an immersive, site-specific production along the L.A. River. When Firefly Nights pivoted to the online space and transformed into Rio Reveals, they went to great lengths to keep the same energy while reimagining and expanding the universe of stories, and adding ways for the audience to have agency in the experience. The gentle maze of audio, video, visual, music, dance, zoom rooms (prepare to be on camera for a minute!) and even the parts where the river calls you on your phone are self-guided and intuitive. Though the audience touches down in shared spaces here and there, for the most part, you are on your own and free to find your own path through history.
Each night starts with the mythical story of geologist Dr. Alison Vincent in her quest to unlock the untold stories and voices behind the Los Angeles River. The production is scored with more than 200 pieces of original music from composers Jonathan Sanford and Amanda Yamate, woven with hours of live and pre-recorded audio and video and extensive real-time live scenes. More than 60 artists have built five parallel stories for you to explore through an innovative hybrid platform, in an 80-minute storytelling adventure in which, just as you can’t step in the same river twice, no two experiences of the show are alike. Live performances Thursday-Sunday, 7pm & Saturdays at 4pm, through February 7; $40; rioreveals.com.
Couriers of Hope at Port City Creative Guild. An eclectic and engaging art project collecting small scale works from over 80 artists, Couriers of Hope invite contributors to make drawings on envelopes, responding to the shared prompt of “hopefulness.” Participating artists include James Jean, Yoskay Yamamoto, Aaron De La Cruz, and Christina Catherine Martinez, and Kristofferson San Pablo, among many others — including LBUSD students who are invited to trade their own works for pieces from the show.
Channeling both conceptual mail art movements of the 1960s, and the symbolism of connectedness and intimacy evoked by snail mail (not to mention supporting the USPS), Couriers of Hope was a collaboration between 10 Long Beach museums, galleries, and arts organizations as well as the school district, and as the show continues to grow, so does the message. On view online; in-person viewing in the street-level windows at the Psychic Temple of the Holy Kiss, 228 E. Broadway, Long Beach; 9am-6pm daily, through February 28; portcitycreativeguild.org.