Labor Day weekend always feels like both the end and the beginning — summer slips away as a lively new season is buzzing. This year things are less clear, with reasons for hope and compelling reasons for caution too as we feel the urge to get back to being busy with all the things. A full month of art, books and performance nevertheless bravely kicks off this weekend with a raucous (outdoor) poetry and music slam and new gallery exhibitions all over town offering evocative ceramics, art on coasters, a transcendental take on the Wizard of Oz, visual art inspired by Black literature and possible futures, and much more.
Thursday, September 2
Connie Martin Trevino: Where Black Hearts Become Guardians, at Blue Roof Studios. Through her emergent ceramic forms, Trevino honors the Black people who, during the middle passage, gave their lives to the deep abyss of the sea rather than be subjugated by their captors. Through the use of figures of hearts, vessels, and sea creatures, Trevino explores femininity, inequality and the grotesque while confronting cultural and painful her/histories. “The vessels represent a place that can be filled with memory, love, and flowers,” Trevino says, “While the sea creatures are our ancestors, guardians, talismans, and protectors in the present world.” 7329 S. Broadway Ave., South L.A.; opening reception: Thursday, September 2, 7-9pm; free; instagram.com/artsatblueroof.
Friday, September 3
The Coaster Show at Gallery 30 South. For the ninth year, the beloved annual tradition of making big art on small, square beer mats continues, as scores of artists, illustrators, collagists, tattooists, animators and even a sculptor or two offer diminutive versions of their visions. Priced from $20 and up, in singles and sets and in a vast array from styles from pop to goth, quirky to poetic, sexy to surreal, there’s truly something for everyone. Just make sure no one uses yours for their beer. 30 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena; Friday, September 3, 6pm; on view through September 24; free; gallery30south.com.
Saturday, September 4
Castle Garden at Descanso. Through contemporary artwork, videos and historic materials, the interdisciplinary group exhibition Castle Garden explores how, over the centuries, plants and gardens have played a vital role in communicating our identity and culture, and also addresses the impact of non-native species on local ecosystems. The exhibition studies issues surrounding SoCal landscaping including origin stories of pervasive non-native plants, socio-political conditions surrounding gardening traditions, how drought and climate change route us back to native gardens, and how changes in climate will dictate our future landscape. Descanso Gardens, Sturt Haaga Gallery, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Canada-Flintridge; Open house with artists, Saturday, September 4, 10am-noon; on view through September 12; free with admission; descansogardens.org.
Ariana Papademetropoulos: The Emerald Tablet at Jeffrey Deitch. A solo exhibition and curatorial project drawing inspiration from Los Angeles’s unique aesthetic, the show celebrates the intersection of the occult and the magic of set design, blurring the world of cinema and the great beyond. The exhibition is modeled on Dorothy’s quest to The Emerald City in Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and invokes its iconography to ignite the dialogue between esotericism and popular culture. Throughout the exhibition are works by contemporary and historical whose works speak to the art of transmutation, including: Isabelle Albuquerque, Beck, Lucy Bull, Marjorie Cameron, Leonora Carrington, Henry Darger, Mike Kelley, Agnes Pelton, Jim Shaw, Henry Taylor, Gus Van Sant, Marnie Weber, Jordan Wolfson, and Unarius. 925 N. Orange Dr., Hollywood; opening day: Saturday, September 4, 11am-6pm; on view through October 23; free; deitch.com.
Carla Jay Harris: A Season in the Wilderness and Karla Diaz: Insomnia at Luis De Jesus. With an interest in documenting intellectual, emotional, and psychological environments, Harris’ recent body of work was created in direct response to the pandemic and social unrest that have gripped the world. In this series of large-scale works on paper, Harris crafts an allegory for grief featuring a collection of archetypal characters on an emotional journey through a surreal landscape. Diaz is a writer, teacher, and multidisciplinary artist who engages in painting, installation, video, and performance. Using narrative to question identity, institutional power, and explore memory, her socially engaged practice — including as co-founder of the Slanguage collective — generates exciting collaborations and provokes important dialogue among diverse communities. 1110 Mateo St., downtown; September 4 – October 30; free; luisdejesus.com.
Literary Muse at UTA Artist Space. Literary Muse, a new group exhibition inspired by Black literary novelists, poets, and scholars, curated by Baltimore-based Myrtis Bedolla of Galerie Myrtis. On view from September 4, 2021, the powerful presentation brings together paintings, photographs, prints, and sculptures by twelve contemporary artists working across the United States. “The incisive writings of Black scholars, poets, and authors of fiction bear the weight of a complicated history, at times celebrated and at others, bemoaned,” writes Bedolla. “In Literary Muse, their words are the interpretive impulse for imagery that defines the architecture of the Black ethos. The result is a visual vernacular constructed in paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, and conceptual works composed in hair beads and wood that interrogates the inherent complexities of race.” 403 Foothill Rd., Beverly Hills; opens September 4, 2-5pm; free; utaartistspace.com.
Flypoet Summer Classic at The Ford. L.A.’s biggest, baddest spoken word, music, and art explosion, the Flypoet All-Star Spoken Word & Music Showcase is the longest-running event of its kind. For the Summer Classic, Flypoet will rock Los Angeles with an expertly curated night of spoken word artists that are guaranteed to spit lyrical fire all night long, along with marquee R&B and soul musical guests. 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood; Saturday, September 4, 8pm; $45-100; theford.com.
Sunday, September 5
Pamela Smith Hudson at Matter Studio. Evolving Matter showcases Hudson’s artistic practice as a process of combining painting, printmaking, and collage to create abstract works that represent different views of our current landscape. “My work combines printmaking, layers of paint, wax, and collage to build textured surfaces on panels, canvas, and paper,” she writes. “I rely on the physical process to create my abstract landscapes and topographical works, where each layer is constructed, then deconstructed. Manipulating the materials with spontaneous and intuitive interactions and methods helps me explore limits. While it may be hidden, the energy of each layer is present within the work.” 5080 W. Pico Blvd., Midcity; Opening reception: Sunday, September 5, 4-7pm; Artist talk: Sunday, September 26, 2pm; on view through October 3; free; matterstudiogallery.com.
Tuesday, September 7
Parable 003 at LACE. An exhibition of contemporary Black visual and conceptual art that collectively draws on the long and storied history of Black communities and settlements as tools of resistance. Inspired by Octavia Butler’s unfinished Parable trilogy, the exhibition is a blueprint for the near future. By inviting artists to use the model of planned cities and communities, we explore how world-building is a method for manifesting Black sovereignty. Artists’ work will incorporate visual, material, and cultural aspects of a new free Black state. At its core, this exhibition translates California’s histories of Black migration, radical participation, and experimental living into a foundation for shaping Black futures. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; September 8 – November 7; free; welcometolace.org.
Wednesday, September 8
Maggie Nelson & Hari Kunzru at the Hammer (Virtual). Author Maggie Nelson returns with On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, a boundary-pushing, provocative work that explores the notion of freedom through four lenses: art, sex, drugs, and the climate. In the highly anticipated follow-up to The Argonauts, Nelson continues to astound as “one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation” (The Guardian). For this first online appearance of her national book tour, Nelson is joined by celebrated novelist and journalist Hari Kunzru (Red Pill, White Tears, Gods Without Men). Wednesday, September 8, 7pm; free; hammer.ucla.edu.
Yoshitomo Nara extended at LACMA through January 2. Yoshitomo Nara’s hyperstylized portraits of wide-eyed girls with cosmos in their irises, quirky bangs and an aura of menace and of secrets kept have become wildly popular around the world in the last three decades. Their particular infusion of Japanese aesthetic flair with color-blocked quasi-abstraction and an off-kilter sense of eternal youth has generated a veritable army of figures. Nara has painted into being an entire population that shares an iconic format but expresses distinct personae through prolific variations on the theme and the occasional incursion of punk rock, animal spirits and lately, politics. LACMA’s landmark survey exhibition has been extended through January 2. For more information visit lacma.org.