Classic films about beauty, paintings about breakdowns, unicorns gone wild, street art gone gallery, experimental opera, enlightening AfroClassical, the Hallelujah chorus, caroling in the plaza, paintings about the invisible forces of existence, crowd-sourced audio celebrating lives cut short by police violence, and more thought-provoking cultural gatherings for the wintry week ahead.
Thursday, December 15
Curated Film Screenings at Wonzimer Gallery. Every two weeks, this indie downtown gallery invites a guest to curate an evening of films, and this month, the current exhibiting artist Gary Brewer has chosen a classic of surrealist cinema and two comedic shorts that all play off of subconscious fear and desire. Jean Cocteau’s 1947 surrealist film Beauty and the Beast, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., and the Chuck Jones animated masterpiece Duck Amuck all relate to Brewer’s current show The Voluptuous Charm of the Monumental Impulse — itself examining the surrealist and sublime aspects of beauty and seeking. 341 S. Avenue 17, downtown; Thursday, December 15, 7:30pm; free; wonzimer.com.
Marc Dennis: Once Upon a Time at Gavlak Gallery. Marc Dennis keeps alive the tradition of illusion in Western art, moving beyond the picture as a site of realness (or, perhaps, truthiness) and into a realm of philosophical inquiry. From time immemorial, the arts have been the source of challenges to our perception. Artists employed a trompe-l’oeil effect, like photo-realism, to examine the interstice between the object as image and the image as object. In this new body of work Marc Dennis looks to explore who and what is left to trompe? 1700 S. Santa Fe, downtown; Opens: Thursday, December 15, 11am-3pm; On view through January 28; free; gavlakgallery.com.
Saturday, December 17
Thrifty at Bermudez Projects. A serious tribute to the quirk of thrift store art, co-curated by Patt Morrison and John Rabe. In two dozen artworks culled from collections across the region, techniques vary. Most are by amateurs who clearly painted purely for pleasure. And they wound up at a thrift store, one imagines, because the next of kin who came across them didn’t know what else to do with them. But is that so bad? Rabe and Morrison say not at all…this is not art meant to appreciate; it’s art meant to be appreciated. Being at a thrift store ensures it gets into the right hands. 1225 Cypress Ave., Cypress Park; Opens: Saturday, December 17, 6-9pm; On view through January 14; free; bermudezprojects.com.
The Last Unicorn 40th Anniversary Exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery. Forty years ago, Peter S. Beagle’s novel The Last Unicorn was released as an animated movie, telling the story of a unicorn named Amalthea, who learns that she is the last of her kind. Amalthea’s quest to find others like herself follows a journey about love, honesty, pain, and fear in a timeless classic set in a stunning animated world. Part of a two-year global celebration of the film’s anniversary sponsored by ASIFA-Hollywood, the exhibition features new works from more than 70 contemporary artists inspired by the beloved fantasy film, plus never-before-seen original production art, and a pop-up shop. 571 S. Anderson St., downtown; Opening reception: Saturday, December 17, 7-11pm; On view through January 21; free; coreyhelfordgallery.com.
Street Schooled at Art Share LA. Curated by Man One, the exhibition highlights the work of 12 Los Angeles artists — Paul Botello, Fabian Debora, John Zender Estrada, Jesse Fregozo, Wayne Healy, Mary Lai, El Mac, Wenceslao Quiroz, Rebornz, Showzart, Obed Silva, Jacqueline Valenzuela — who are each inspired in various dynamic ways by the streets of Los Angeles. The juxtaposition of established, even legendary artists alongside up and coming voices showcases the talent of these emerging artists while giving flowers to the living maestros that came before them. Special appearance by the poet and historian Mike the Poet Sonksen, plus a viewing of CANceptual — a group of 100 original pieces of art on spray cans. 801 E. 4th Pl., downtown; Opening reception: Saturday, December 17, 7-10pm; free; artsharela.org.
Presenting AfroClassical Composers at Founders Church. Works by Dorothy Rudd-Moore, George Walker, R. Nathaniel Dett, and Maria Thompson Corley will be performed live by Maria Thompson Corley and Presenting AfroClassical Composers’ Executive Director Michael Ligon. The Presenting AfroClassical Composers mission is to increase knowledge and appreciation of legacy and living composers of the African Diaspora through live performances of their compositions, interpreted by culturally diverse musicians and framed by interdisciplinary community conversations that better reflect LA County’s demographics and deep talent base — enabling audiences to discuss the genre’s social contexts and broad historical and cultural influences. 3281 W. 6th St., Koreatown; Saturday, December 17, 4pm; free; afroclassicalcomposers.org.
The Industry: LAB 2022 at Los Angeles Theater Center. Moving fluidly between the opera and visual art worlds, this year’s LAB artists explore challenging migrations, revolutionary insurrections, and the body-politics of voice. LA-based artist and filmmaker Mariah Garnett and a cohort of close collaborators workshops material from a new body of operatic works responding to diaries and a never-realized score written by her great-great aunt Ruth in Cairo in 1935. In the rescoring of these works, Garnett delves into questions around legacy and dealing with the impact of colonial violence on place within her own family history. Audiences can witness all three works-in-progress in this weekend’s all-day mini-festival. 514 S. Spring St., downtown; Saturday, December 17, beginning at 1pm; $14-$40; theindustryla.org.
Sunday, December 18
L.A. Master Chorale: Handel’s Messiah at Disney Hall. Joyous refrains and exultant arias, including the iconic “Hallelujah” Chorus, will fill the concert hall this holiday season. This Baroque masterwork, expressing the themes of hope, redemption and grace, showcases the magnificent artistry and skill of our celebrated chorus, complemented by four exceptional guest artists. PS: If you don’t think you can stop yourself from joining in the good parts, they’ve got you — consider attending Monday night’s official Sing-Along version instead! 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Sunday, December 18, 7pm; $65-$170; lamasterchorale.org.
Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group at LACMA. In 1938 in New Mexico, a loose configuration of artists came together to form the Transcendental Painting Group. Led by painters Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram, joined by Agnes Pelton and Lawren Harris, the members of the group sought to explore spiritually heightened abstraction by employing free-wheeling symbols and imagery drawn from the collective unconscious. According to their manifesto they strove “to carry painting beyond the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light and design to imaginative realms that are idealistic and spiritual.” 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; On view December 18 – June 19; free-$25; lacma.org.
Monday, December 19
LA Master Chorale: Carols on the Plaza (Outdoor). Twenty singers and a pianist lead a free evening of outdoor caroling to celebrate the season. Grant Gershon and Jenny Wong will lead you in singing easy-to-follow favorites like “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night”, and the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. We’ll provide the sheet music, just bring your holiday spirit. Music Center, 218 N. Grand Ave, downtown; Monday, December 19, 6pm; free; amasterchorale.org.
GARDEN at Ladies Room (Virtual). An exhibition of 139 women and non-binary artists, GARDEN benefits three organizations that help the food insecure — LA Food Policy Council, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, and World Central Kitchen. Using images derived from Nature and the body, this wide-ranging selection addresses and evokes the myriad ways in which artists communicate with history and the future, grounding narratives in the multiplicity of the mellifluous present. Online through January 31; free; ladiesroomla.org.
1-800-Happy-Birthday (Virtual & In Brooklyn). A voicemail project conceived by creative content studio Even/Odd and artist Mohammad Gorjestani to honor the Black and Brown victims of police killings and systemic racism, the website allows people to leave and listen to voicemails left for the victims on what would have been their birthdays. On the landing page, visitors can click on one of 16 celebrants — including Michael Brown, Sean Monterrosa, Eric Garner, Stephon A. Clark, George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Tony Robinson, Donovon Lynch, Xzavier D. Hill, Derrick Gaines, Dujuan Armstrong, Oscar Grant, Mario Woods, Philando Castile, and Fred Cox — and can then leave a voicemail or listen to voicemails previously left by others. The goal is to celebrate and honor lives lived, rather than mourn their loss — a mission born from Mohammad’s frustration that news coverage tends to focus on the death of each individual, rather than the impact their lives left. Mohammad’s wish to see the project become a full-scale installation came true last month when he partnered with WORTHLESSSTUDIOS to pair the voicemails with 12 customized phone booths, where visitors to the NYC-based studio can hear the voicemails in person. Visit 1800happybirthday.com & instagram.com/1800HappyBirthday to learn more.
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