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September is typically a pretty big month in the art world, with a roster of high-profile gallery exhibitions that is both exciting and overwhelming, and a cluster of Saturday evening destinations with a sprawling simultaneity that defies the laws of time and space. But not this year — at least not the 6-8pm wine and cheese crosstown amazing race part. With pandemic disruptions pushing a lot of gallery content to the online space and forcing the open IRL venues to institute strict safety measures, this season, it’s all about embracing the concept of by-appointment gallery-going. Most open places have easy-to-navigate online booking akin to restaurant reservation apps, and what’s missing in terms of the social scene is replaced with the chance for a more profound, mindful engagement with the work — which you will, wonderfully, have all to yourself. A person could get used to this.

Helen Rae at Tierra del Sol Gallery

Helen Rae at Tierra del Sol Gallery opens September 4

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 new works opens at her Los Angeles gallery on September 4, be prepared to be blown away. Tierra del Sol Gallery, 945 Chung King Rd., Chinatown; tierradelsolgallery.org.

Isabelle Albuquerque at Nicodim

Isabelle Albuquerque at Nicodim Gallery opens September 10

They say a dancer’s instrument is their body. But when a movement artist moves into the world of sculpture, that can become truer than ever. Isabelle Albuquerque is on that journey now, transmogrifying her background in performance, music, and artificial intelligence/tech into dimensional objects that in a sense, continue to perform. Using her own body as the physical template for a series of surreal, sexual, and seductively strange sculptures enacting abstract poses and scandalous intimacy with musical instruments, Albuquerque simultaneously interrogates issues of identity, agency, humanoidism, fantasy, memory, and whimsy in bronze, metal, wood, and flame. Sextet, Albuquerque’s first solo exhibition with Nicodim, presents six sculptures from Orgy for 10 People in One Body series. Nicodim Gallery, 1700 S. Sante Fe, downtown; nicodimgallery.com.

Erin Riley, Reflections 4, 2019, wool, cotton, 59 x 48 in at Kohn Gallery

myselves at Kohn Gallery opens September 11 & 12

A group exhibition curated by Joshua Friedman, myselves brings together 27 artists who investigate ideas about the fluidity of identity by deconstructing the conventions of their mediums. Examining the interlaced spheres of race, gender, sexuality, and heritage across painting, collage, sculpture, and mixed media, this anticipated exhibition offers not only a look at new art-making modalities, but at a generation of rising stars whose works, “confront the myth of selfhood’s unchanging rigidity and turn instead to its fertile nebulousness.” Kohn Gallery, 1227 N. Highland, Hollywood; kohngallery.com.

Mark Steven Greenfield at Palos Verdes Art Center

Skin in the Game at the Palos Verdes Art Center opens September 12

What does it mean to have skin in the game? For curator Brent Holmes, this is a question with a multiverse of answers — but it starts with an acknowledgement that while we are all in the struggle for a more just society together, there are populations for whom the stakes are much higher, more immediate, and literally life and death. Bringing together work by 12 artists who have been engaged with the intersections of BIPOC identity with the urgency of this sociopolitical moment, Skin in the Game presents new work in video, animation, performance, VR, painting, photography, and sculpture by contemporary Black artists and allies. The exhibition will launch online at first, but with the reasonable assumption that PVAC will be able to host in-person visitors before too long. Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 W. Crestridge Road, Palos Verdes; pvartcenter.org.

Lesley Vance, Untitled, 2020, oil on linen, 80 x 67 inches (Photography by Fredrik Nilsen Studio; courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles)

Lesley Vance at David Kordansky Gallery opens September 12

Some folks paint with their wrist, some their elbow, and some swing from the shoulder — generating sweeping gestures that create a sense of scale and movement that discourse not only with the eye, but the space of the whole body. In the work of Lesley Vance, this physicality is augmented and amplified with a vivacious chromatic sensibility that keeps vision and cognition in a constant state of flux and motion as well. From energetic engagement with the architectural space to a proliferation of emotional moments within each composition, Vance’s work creates a pocket universe of contemplation and agitation that speaks to the enduring power of abstract painting. David Kordansky Gallery, 5130 Edgewood Place, Mid-city; davidkordanskygallery.com

Aaron Garber-Maikovska, Untitled, 2019 Oil on fluted polyboard 90 x 80 inches (Blum & Poe Los Angeles)

Aaron Garber-Maikovska at Blum and Poe opens September 12

Garber-Maikovska works across painting, drawing, performance and video, but with a perhaps unexpected armature of conceptual connectivity between his genres — his own body. From performance-based videos which document his awkward attempts at inserting himself and enacting his existence within eccentric public spaces, to his labor-intensive and materially omnivorous painting practice whose abstract expressionism bears and enshrines the scars of their own making, the artist is always present. While proceeding with an emotional verve that speaks to Garber-Maikovska’s personal experience, all the work exists against a more outward-looking backdrop of skepticism toward the dominant power paradigm of a democracy threatened by capitalist corruption. Blum & Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; blumandpoe.com

Kathy Ager at MOAH Lancaster (Courtesy of Thinkspace)

New Vanguard III at MOAH Lancaster opens September 12

The volatile romance between fine art and street art continues to evolve, and our visual culture is all the richer for it. For many years now, L.A.’s Thinkspace Gallery has operated at this intersection across exhibitions, institutions, installations, conventions, and festivals. Likewise, for the past few years, the Lancaster Museum of Art and History has embraced the vibrant, popular appeal of mural-based works and through collaborating with the global phenom of the POW!WOW! mural festivals, brought exciting public art to the Antelope Valley.

Jeff Soto at POW! WOW! Antelope Valley 2018

This year’s POW!WOW! AV happens from September 5-12, with a dozen new murals blowing up across the region, coinciding with the opening of the MOAH exhibition The New Vanguard III — an exuberant look at the current moment in the world of international post-pop, latter day lowbrow, and street-inflected freshness. The exhibition is curated by Thinkspace, whose crew is also helming the muralizing, with several artists represented in both projects. The museum show is up through the end of the year, anticipating the return of in-person visitors; the murals will be ready for open-air viewing immediately. Lancaster MOAH, 665 W. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster; lancastermoah.org.

Fulton Leroy Washington (aka MR. WASH), Mr. Rene # MAN POWER, 2011 at the Hammer Museum

Made in L.A. 2020: a version at the Hammer & the Huntington opens in September

The Hammer Museum’s hotly anticipated biennial series has been moving with the times since its first iteration a decade ago — and this “version” is no exception. For one thing, it takes place at two campuses — the Hammer itself and across town, the Huntington. Works by 30 Los Angeles–based artists comprising installation, video and film, sculpture, performance, painting and interdisciplinary pollinations will be installed at both locations — which is just as well, since only the Huntington’s outdoor spaces are open to the public at the moment. (The obvious hope is that this will change while the shows are installed through the end of the year.) The very gorgeous catalog is already out; and there will be plenty of virtual programming to scratch the biennial itch until reopening. The Hammer Museum, Westwood; The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino; hammer.ucla.edu.

Gajin Fujita, Home Field L.A. at L.A. Louver

45 at 45 at L.A. Louver opens October 6

Iconic Los Angeles gallery L.A. Louver has been in the business of creating and honoring contemporary art history for 45 years. And for most of that time, they’ve done it out of their lofty HQ at 45 N. Venice Blvd. Deadly serious about art but still loving a good pun, the gallery celebrates this occasion with what else, but a survey of 45 artists. Expect highlights of their own international program and its deep regional championing in work from stable stars like David Hockney, Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Alison Saar, Gajin Fujita, and Terry Allen alongside favorites from their extended family of stars and phenoms like Eduardo Sarabia, Tacita Dean, Elliot Hundley, Liza Lou, Rina Banerjee, Rebecca Campbell, Gisela Colon, Marcel Duchamp, Jimmie Durham, Kohshin Finley, Carmen Argote, Heather Gwen Martin, Jason Martin, Patrick Martinez, John McCracken, Alice Neel, Analia Saban, Matt Wedel and Gabriella Sanchez. L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; lalouver.com.

Carmen Argote, Test Pocket at L.A. Louver