What we do matters — what we make, how we spend our time and attention, how we are of service. This week, painters take on the task of engaged social critique, digital art keeps rolling ahead, experimental film challenges taboos, memory and identity inspire deeply personal work, new dance and theater weave poignant metaphors for our times, landscape painting gets a makeover, a cultural river walk hopes it doesn’t rain [it’s gonna rain], a contemporary dance icon inspires an exhibition, a modern dance company launches a book, and poets and writers figure it all out.
Thursday, January 12
Jim Shaw: Thinking the Unthinkable at Gagosian. Shaw reanimates mythological themes through incidents from political history and popular entertainment, outwardly disparate fields that collide here in a dreamlike mélange. The characters that populate these images represent what Catherine Taft, writing for Gagosian Quarterly in 2022, describes as “an American limbo, troubled waters into which the artist wades deeper and deeper.” Strewn throughout are competing symbols, including the mushroom cloud, the pillar, the egg, the alphabet, and the ocean. 456 N. Camden, Beverly Hills; Opening reception: Thursday, January 12, 6-8pm; On view through February 25; free; gagosian.com.
Next-GEN: Digital Artists to Watch at Vellum LA. Los Angeles has emerged as a global hub for artists working with digital media. A city defined by its expanse, Los Angeles is home to a multitude of thriving and diverse artist communities. Next-GEN LA: Digital Artists to Watch is a yearly exhibition series designed to foreground standout early career digital artists, whose contributions are shaping the next generation of art in the city and beyond. Curated by Jesse Damiani and Sinziana Velicescu, Next-GEN LA: Digital Artists to Watch, an exhibition highlighting the work of 10 trailblazing emerging and early career artists based in the Los Angeles area. 7673 Melrose, WeHo; Opening reception: Thursday, January 12, 7-9pm; On view through January 22; free; vellumla.com.
Film Maudit 2.0 at Highways Performance Space. This annual celebration of outré films takes place in person at Highways and online, with screenings, live music, performance art, and special programming showcasing over 100 works of cinema from more than 25 countries. Across shorts and features rarely, if ever, seen in festivals — works addressing socio-political issues and taboo subject matter that challenges conventional artistic assumptions and sexual mores — find a wide range of narrative, documentary, and experimental films of exceptionally bold and occasionally shocking character. 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, and further online streaming: January 12 – February 11; free; filmmaudit.org.
Shingo Yamazaki: Where You Stay at UTA Artist Space. Drawing from personal narratives, Shingo both buries and uncovers domestic scenes to visually address generational trauma, anxieties, and invisibility. Plants, objects, and vague blurring layers of color obscure one’s view, expressing the in-betweenness of perspective and identity. With veil-like transparencies, figures are camouflaged into familiar interior spaces, representing the invisibility of migrant and diasporic families. This body of work specifically explores generations of people who have migrated and assimilated, creating a mosaic of stories unique to each community. 403 Foothill Blvd., Beverly Hills; Opens January 12; free; utaartistspace.com.
Pat Payne: Works from the Memory Hive at CadFab Creative + Art Luxe. Visual time capsules that show multiple stories simultaneously through collaged timescapes, Payne’s vibrant, layered images are heavily influenced by her Caribbean-American heritage, bicoastal identities, and love of storytelling. She shifts the canvas as she paints, adding vignettes that create complex portraits of family folklore and feminine spiritual power. Inspired by her mentor, multimedia artist Faith Ringgold, and her love of Octavia Butler’s science fiction, the exhibition showcases the evolution of the artist’s style over time, as the coded language of her paintings emerged. 6023 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Opening reception: Thursday, January 12, 6-9pm; On view through February 1; free; cadfabcreative.com.
Friday, January 13
Dance at the Odyssey. A new edition of the beloved dance and movement series kicks off with a world premiere of six short works by six local choreographers based in contemporary, hip hop, and experimental styles, and goes on to present works based on esoteric ideas of movement and invention, works set to rediscovered songs from the ancient world, future folk fusion, embodied storytelling, and more. 2055 S. Sepulveda, West LA; Performances January 13 – February 19; various prices & series passes; odysseytheatre.com.
Home Front at the Victory Theatre Center. In the story of an interracial love affair from the desk of Tony Award-winning playwright Warren Leight, an African American soldier and a white woman fall in love the night World War II ends — a time of euphoria for Americans after years of devastating conflict. Can that sense of goodwill and new beginnings wipe away the racial mistrust and discrimination in a country still deeply mired in the Jim Crow Era? Spoiler alert: it won’t be easy. 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Performances: January 13-15; $25-$40; thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
Saturday, January 14
Friedrich Kunath: I Don’t Know The Place, But I Know How To Get There at Blum & Poe. Kunath utilizes a personal style of romantic conceptualism, layering poetic phrases with poignant, often melancholy imagery. The work embraces comedy and pathos, evoking universal feelings of love, hope, longing, and despair. The artist’s personal journey from Germany to Los Angeles plays a key role in his work, incorporating German Romanticism and western popular culture, with still life, cartoon imagery, commercial illustration, nature photography, and lyrical references. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; Opening reception: Saturday, January 14, 5-7pm; On view through February 25; free; blumandpoe.com.
Zachary Friedberg: Happy Spaces at La Luz de Jesus. International artist Zachary Benson Friedberg (aka Speczacular) offers Happy Spaces — consisting of 21 new paintings that feature iconic Southern Californian mid-century modern architecture with Friedberg’s surreal and futuristic twist. 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; Opening Reception: Saturday, January 14, 4-8pm; On view through February 5; free; laluzdejesus.com.
[POSTPONED FOR WEATHER] River Sessions: Mile XX-51 at LA River Public Art Project (weather permitting). The launch of an adventurous new series exploring art, culture, and place along the LA River. Guided walks every second Saturday of each month will visit important cultural sites, starting with the sources of the river in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains and continuing with Indigenous Leaders and artists to various sites on the way to Long Beach. Gathering at the river’s official Mile 51 starting point, and after a brief grounding with traditional Tongva singer Joe Calderon, smaller groups drive/carpool to seek the sources of the river in the foothills ringing the valley, led by Indigenous Elder Jimmy Garcia and Creative Ecologist Kat Superfisky. Saturday, January 14, 11am-2pm; $29-$35; lariverpublicartproject.org.
Heidi Duckler Dance: 2016-2021 Book Launch at ICA LA. A celebration event for the acclaimed and beloved site-specific dance company Heidi Duckler Dance’s long-awaited visual compilation book surveying the company’s foundation work. Designed by James Robie, he and Heidi will discuss the creation of the book and sign copies. Vinny Golia and Edgar Aguirre will perform a new work created specifically for this event in response to the innovative architecture of the ICA LA lobby. 1717 E. 7th St., downtown; Saturday, January 14, 3-5pm; free, books (pre-order encouraged) $35; heididuckler.org.
Sunday, January 15
Simone Forti at MOCA. Featuring work from the 1960s through to the present day, the exhibition is an homage to a towering artist who has forever reframed the dialogue between visual art and contemporary dance. Forti is perhaps best known as a choreographer — which the exhibition will highlight throughout the exhibition with weekly performances of her groundbreaking Dance Constructions, featuring a cast of Los Angeles-based artists and creatives. At the same time, Forti can more expansively be understood as an artist who works with movement; looking beyond the Dance Constructions, this exhibition surveys six decades of the artist’s incisive work, elucidating the breadth and depth of her practice through works on paper, videos, holograms, and performance ephemera and documentation. 250 S. Grand Ave, downtown; On view January 15 – April 2; free; moca.org.
Sandra Simonds, Rodrigo Toscano, Prageeta Sharma, & Harmony Holiday at Beyond Baroque (Live & Virtual). Born in Waterloo, Iowa, poet and choreographer Harmony Holiday is the daughter of Northern Soul singer/songwriter Jimmy Holiday. She is the author of Negro League Baseball (2011), Go Find your Father/A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2013), and Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2017), which she is turning into an afroballet. Sandra Simonds is a poet and critic. She is the author of eight books of poetry and Assia, a forthcoming novel based on the life of Assia Wevill. Rodrigo Toscano is a poet and dialogist based in New Orleans. He is the author of ten books of poetry and his Collapsible Poetics Theater was a National Poetry Series selection. Prageeta Sharma is the author of numerous poetry collections and the founder of Thinking Its Presence, an interdisciplinary conference on race, creative writing, and artistic and aesthetic practices. 681 Venice Blvd., Venice; Sunday, January 15, 4pm; and live on YouTube; free; beyondbaroque.org.
Monday, January 16
Till and Clemency with filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu in person at American Cinematheque. Till (2022) is a profoundly emotional film following the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley and her relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi in 1955. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world. Based on the widely protested execution of Troy Davis, Clemency (2019) follows long-time prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) as she prepares to execute another inmate. Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Monday, January 16, 7pm; free w/ rsvp; americancinematheque.com.
King Day at CAAM. Come together to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrate the return of CAAM’s in-person King Day festivities. This year’s theme is “MLK: A Legacy of Service” and the program includes a performance by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the King Study Group’s session on MLK’s 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, “Time to Break the Silence,” plus family activities, storytelling, crafts, food trucks, and more. On view inside the museum’s atrium is because i am that — a two-person exhibition by Adee Roberson and Azikiwe Mohammed featuring screenprints, paintings, video, window vinyl, and a mix of sculptural works in an evolving environmental installation. 600 State Dr., Exposition Park; Monday, January 16, 10am-5pm; free; caamuseum.org.
Tuesday, January 17
Genevieve Gaignard at USC Roski Talks. Genevieve Gaignard is a multidisciplinary artist in Los Angeles. Her work elicits dialogue around race, beauty, and cultural identity. Earlier this year, she presented the exhibition Strange Fruit with Vielmetter Los Angeles, in an unapologetic commentary on the material objects and performances of America’s past. Gaignard’s self-portraiture, collage, sculpture, and installations reside in numerous institutional permanent collections across the nation. Recently Gaignard partnered with Orange Barrel Media on Look At Them Look At Us, a permanent, site-specific public art installation in downtown Atlanta. 1262 Palmetto St., downtown; Tuesday, January 17, 7pm; free; roski.usc.edu.
Zócalo + Da Poetry Lounge present: Does Democracy Need Poets? at ASU California Center (Live & Virtual). As long as there have been poems, there have been political poems: verses, intended to be heard aloud, meant to sway opinion and inspire action. Today’s spoken word artists continue this tradition by employing their art to expose cracks in America’s racial, economic, and social fabric — and pushing ever-broadening audiences to get out and vote in the face of escalating ballot suppression. The night begins with Beau Sia performing “We Voting,” and Sekou Andrews and Steve Connell performing “Water Stained Black,” followed by a conversation with the poets and moderator Alyesha Wise about the ways artists engage with politics, and fuel democracy. 1111 S. Broadway, downtown; Tuesday, January 17, 7pm; free; zocalopublicsquare.org.
Wednesday, January 18
Craft and Conscience: How to Write About Social Issues at PEN America (Virtual). Writing is often a political act, no matter the genre. But for writers committed to advancing social justice, putting pen to page can be intimidating. Who gets to write what? How does a writer balance authority and humility when writing toward change? Where should writers turn when work results in powerful pushback? And how can community aid the writer’s journey? Inspired by Kavita Das’ essential book of the same name, join PEN America for a panel program for early career writers to explore the best practices of building a writing career with purpose. Wednesday, January 18, 5pm; free; pen.org.
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