Summer may have indeed seemed like 500 days this year, and while technically still on for a couple of more weeks, Labor Day turns the collective psyche towards Autumn — and with it, a new September art season. This week sees a number of galleries open big new shows, many with all-day, masked, socially distant opening receptions, or at least with appointments available starting as of opening day. But there’s also still plenty of excellent online/virtual/social media-based work to enjoy from home, as well as a month-long, cross-platform all-city indie arts festival, and a group show propagating across Hollywood and WeHo billboards.

Friday, September 4

Helen Rae at Tierra del Sol Gallery. Helen Rae was nearing 80 when her art career finally took off. As a member of the First Street Art Center community (a progressive studio for adults with developmental disabilities in Upland), Rae perhaps seems an unlikely art-world darling. But the strikingly original, viscerally sophisticated, expressionistic and even Fauvist line and color of her fashion-inspired portraits defy both expectation and convention. With wit and powerful savvy, Rae transforms iconic couture ads into emotionally and optically rich works that have garnered the attention of audiences across the country and indeed the globe. Now 82, Rae has not slowed down one bit. As an exhibition of her striking new works opens, be prepared to be blown away. Tierra del Sol Gallery, 945 Chung King Rd., Chinatown; by appointment, September 4 – October 23;

Ariel Vargassal, Defiant, acrylic and 24K gold leaf on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

Ariel Vargassal: Fables of Emotional and Physical Displacement at BBAX. Painter Ariel Vargassal combines stylistic cues from Pop, Surrealism, and magical realism in crisply depicted micro-fables of the human condition. In each tableaux the figures are accompanied by domestic and wild animal counterparts whose presence signals a deeper meaning. Each detail of costume, creature, and sometimes confection signals that the scene is a metaphor, despite its plausible rendering. Color is saturated and thus emotional. To be enjoyed for their beauty, puzzled upon for their strangeness, and wondered over for their significance of message, enjoy an exhibition of new works for the modern moment. Building Bridges Art Exchange, Bergamot Station Art Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; by appointment Friday, September 4 and Saturday, September 5, noon-5pm.

The Bendix Collective: High Beams (Maiden L.A.)

Saturday, September 5

The Bendix Building Collective: High Beams. In this one-night event as part of the Maiden L.A. crosstown arts festival, the Bendix Building’s studio artists, members of its resident collectives, and many of the tenant galleries will gather for a socially distant rooftop exhibition event on a neighboring parking structure in the downtown Fashion District. Augmented by a downloadable guide that goes into more detail about the artists and the full bodies of sculptural work sampled in this winding installation, for this evening itself visitors can and probably should stay in their cars to cruise the open air lot. 401 East 12th St., downtown; Saturday, September 5, 8-10pm; free;

Duke Riley at Charlie James Gallery

Duke Riley: Far Away at Charlie James Gallery. In drawings, mosaics, video, performance, and even scrimshaw, Duke Riley combines wistful yet politically salient examinations of the role of the artist in society with imagery dwelling on the fate of maritime and waterfront town culture erased by rampant development. Using maritime traditions as emblems for the energy of a lost way of life, Riley’s work evokes both history and allegory in work that is mournful, cautionary, beautiful, ideological, and inventive. 969 Chung King Road, Chinatown; September 5 – October 17, by appointment;

Julie Mehretu, Conjured Parts (eye), Ferguson, 2016. Courtesy of The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, © Julie Mehretu (Photo by Cathy Carver)

Poetry in Color: A Virtual Slam Inspired by Julie Mehretu at LACMA. This streaming poetry slam takes its cues from the landmark Julie Mehretu exhibition, which many were able to visit in the before times, but which will sadly close on September 17, before the museum reopens to the public. As Mehretu’s work is characterized by a generative abstraction drawing on aspects of colonialism and capitalist history and their manifestations in architecture, landscape, and the movements of peoples, the featured poets Fisseha Moges, Yaw Kyeremateng, and Tonya Ingram explore related dynamics through the agency of the spoken word. Saturday, September 5, 7:30-8:30pm; free; Instagram Live.

Dorian Wood at ICA LA

Sunday, September 6

Dorian Wood: Ardor at ICA LA. Musician, artist, performer and avant-garde non-binary icon Dorian Wood celebrates the release of a new full-length album with a live-stream performance from the ICA. Ardor was recorded at Human Resources in June, and reflects its mid-quarantine moment of shift and trauma that we all experience alone and collectively if at a distance. Cathartic and intense with love and loss, in the end, it gives way to hope. “Ardor is a love letter to activists and to all of us doing what we can to survive in today’s times,” says Wood. “[It is] meant to encourage both acts of resistance and self-reflection.” Sunday, September 6, noon;

Monday, September 7 (Labor Day)

Be An #ArtsHero Arts Workers Unite Day of Action. Be an #ArtsHero is an intersectional grassroots campaign comprised of Arts & Culture workers, Unions, and institutions in the United States pushing the Senate to allocate proportionate relief to the Arts & Culture sector of the American economy. Calling for proportionate relief to the Arts & Culture sector, this Labor Day, the campaign is organizing a nationwide network of demonstrations, as arts workers demand that their elected representatives advocate for arts and culture institutions and the communities they center. They will also be on Instagram Live, as artists, arts workers, and culture-minded celebrities call their Senators in IGTV at BeAnArtsHero. The day will culminate with a live-stream conversation, The Ghostlight Panel: Changing The Conversation About The Creative Economy, discussing the socioeconomic impact of the Arts & Culture sector in the United States. As the Arts & Culture sector contributes $877B in value added to our economy, there should be a lot to talk about.

Art by Jonah Welch


SaveArtSpace presents Looking Forward // Queer Futures. A billboard-based public art exhibition curated by Mich Miller, Sky Cubacub, & Rebecca Shippee, the scattered installations of work by Brendan Shea, Ari Salka, Marne Lucas, Toni Smalls, Daniel Alejandro Trejo, Hannah Rubin, CJ Miller, Duff Norris, Bailey Davenport, and Dustin Steuck examine the many faces of the Queer community with an eye toward an inclusive collective future. “Queer” is used as an identity and community term for non-normativity — both as a celebration and a reclamation,” say the curators. Beginning the week of August 24 and installed for a month in most locations, delight in the sudden appearance of fantastical, fabulous, and funny angels keeping watch from above our Hollywood, WeHo and Mid-City thoroughfares.

Mike Saijo and Flora Kao (Maiden L.A.)

Maiden L.A. 2020. An inclusive, decentralized arts festival happening at locations across Los Angeles County, the 2020 edition of Maiden L.A. hosts some 75 projects, about half in-person and the rest online. Some highlights include a scavenger hunt crossword puzzle that takes you around the city for clues, a handwashing memorial to essential workers, a film screening that layers 32 kaiju films simultaneously, a range of open artist studio presentations and performances, an exhibition installed on the Brewery Arts Colony fencing, a positive affirmation selfie station, a web-based video-based storytelling project, an exterior in-situ photo-bombing of a local museum, the one-night High Beams drive-through garage-roof sculpture park (see above), a two-day boat and bridge happening in the wetlands, a hybrid VR/IRL project about the psyche emerging into the world, and an exhibition and events series on the poignant, evolving, and always urgent idea of “home.” September 1 – 20; various times; various locations;

Museum Adjacent (Maiden L.A.)

Jody Zellen (Maiden L.A.)

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