10 Shows to See in Los Angeles, June 2024

This month’s selection looks at legacies and the strands of culture, resilience, pain, and tradition that bind us together across time. Esteban Cabeza de Baca’s paintings offer contemporary reflections on his familial connection to protest. In the works of Veronica Fernandez and Tidawhitney Lek, mundane family scenes are interrupted by ghosts of the past. A group show explores the historical rupture and unsettling recent echoes of the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915, while Keith Mayerson’s multi-faceted portrait of Los Angeles as a site of potentiality draws on memories both personal and collective. And a restaging of Otto Piene’s 1966-67 message of hope in the face of nuclear annihilation resonates with the existential crises of our current moment.

Esteban Cabeza de Baca: Cesar’s Angels

Esteban Cabeza de Baca’s paintings in Cesar’s Angels are rooted in the Farmworkers’ Movement led by Cesar Chavez in California during the 1960s. The artist has a family legacy of protest: his parents were involved with the activism of the Brown Berets and Black Panthers, and his father was Chavez’s bodyguard during this period. With a vibrant palette that incorporates cochineal — a red pigment made from ground beetles used for centuries by Indigenous artists in Mexico — and a style that blends Guston-esque figuration with elements of surrealism and social realism, Cabeza de Baca’s historical scenes of protest, community, and celebration feel vitally contemporary.

Parker Gallery (parkergallery.com)
2441 Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles
Through June 8

Gloria Klein: Unbinding Unwinding

Gloria Klein emerged as a painter in the heady downtown New York art scene of the 1970s. Her colorful, hard-edge abstractions reflect several trends of the time, from Minimalism and Conceptualism to the Pattern and Decoration and Feminist Art movements. The sometimes-competing algorithmic systems that rule her compositions result in complex paintings of geometric marks, which each vibrate rhythmically with their own internal logic. Unbinding Unwinding, the late artist’s first show in Los Angeles, features work from the 1970s and ’80s, including early text-based diagrammatic drawings.

Anat Ebgi (anatebgi.com)
6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through June 15

Veronica Fernandez and Tidawhitney Lek: What Will You Give?

The two-person exhibition What Will You Give? features large-scale paintings by Veronica Fernandez and Tidawhitney Lek, artists and friends whose works offer glimpses of their lived experiences augmented with otherworldly wonder. In works such as “Pillowflight (Nobody Is Coming to Protect You)” (2024), in which a playful moment is interrupted by a menacing white figure that free-falls from the ceiling, Fernandez portrays family scenarios with an element of pictorial realism filtered through the haze of dream and memory. Meanwhile, Lek punctuates her scenes of trompe l’oeil mundanity with flashes of surreal horror, recalling the intergenerational wounds carried by survivors of trauma. Depicting a hyper-realistic strip mall facade backed by a garish purple and yellow sunset, Lek’s “Travel Agency” (2024) suggests that, while some may travel for leisure, others travel for survival.

Sidecar (sidecargallery.ca)
2034 Imperial Street, Downtown, Los Angeles
Through June 22

27198CraggPhotoCreditElonSchoenholz MG TC 04.24.2410213
Installation view of Tony Cragg,
”In No Time” (2018),
wood, 94 1/2 x 73 1/4 x 37 3/4 inches (photo by Elon Schoenholz, courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery)

Tony Cragg

For more than five decades, British sculptor Tony Cragg has been investigating the properties and possibilities of various materials, drawing on the natural world as much as classical and modern artistic precedents. His current solo exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery features works in bronze, wood, stone, and steel made since 2018, including the organic forms of his Integers series (2020–ongoing), the layered columns in his Masks series (2021–ongoing), and the interlocking steel planes of his Incident series (2023–ongoing). The monumental plywood sculpture “In No Time” (2018) is a highlight: It recalls both the torqued marble work “Laocoön and His Sons” (c. 323 BCE–31 CE) and a gnarled thicket of trees.

Marian Goodman Gallery (mariangoodman.com)
1120 Seward Street, Hollywood, Los Angeles
Through June 29

Before, After: Reflections on the Armenian Genocide

More than 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were lost during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, a state-sponsored campaign of mass murder, persecution, and displacement. Before, After examines the long legacy of this crime, tracing threads of resilience and survival in the works of nine artists of Armenian descent. An earlier version of this exhibition was mounted at the Stockton University Art Gallery in Galloway, New Jersey in 2021; this updated staging takes into account recent disturbing developments with historical echoes, such as the expulsion of more than 100,000 Armenians from their homes in Artsakh by Azerbaijan in 2023. Photographer Anush Babajanyan displays photographs documenting periods of relative calm in the region as well as the strife that ensued in the fall of 2020, when the current conflict began. Other participating artists include John Avakian, Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Diana Markosian, and Talin Megherian.

ReflectSpace Gallery (reflectspace.org)
Glendale Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street, Glendale
Through July 7 (gallery closed until June 20)

Keith Mayerson: My American Dream: City of Angels

Since 2000, Keith Mayerson has been developing his painting series My American Dream, which reflects the artist’s optimistic vision of American possibility. City of Angels (2023–24), his latest body of work in this project, focuses on Los Angeles, where he launched his career as an artist in the 1990s, and where he currently resides after several years living in New York. The paintings on view include a selection of autobiographical images connected to the Golden State; depictions of pop cultural figures such as the Muppets, barrier-breaking tennis player Billie Jean King, and stoner icons Cheech & Chong; as well as visionary representations of Western landscapes, UFO sightings, and LA’s urban sprawl.

Karma (karmakarma.org)
7351 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, California
Through July 20

Otto Piene: The Proliferation of the Sun and Gretchen Bender: The Perversion of the Visual

German artist Otto Piene created “The Proliferation of the Sun” (1966–67), a phantasmagoric installation featuring slide projections of organic forms recalling microscopic or celestial phenomena, as a hopeful alternative to the period’s growing threat of nuclear proliferation. Shortly before he died in 2014, Piene updated the work with 160 new digitized slides for his retrospective at the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin. Sprüth Magers’s exhibition restages this final iteration, which incorporates Piene’s original recorded narration from nearly 60 years ago. Also on view is The Perversion of the Visual, which presents work by the late Pictures Generation artist Gretchen Bender. Mixing computer animation, news footage, and corporate logos, Bender’s multi-screen works poke through mass media’s numbing effect.

Sprüth Magers (spruethmagers.com)
5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through August 10

Mickalene Thomas: All About Love

Through a practice that includes collage, installation, photography, and the rhinestone-encrusted paintings for which she is best known Mickalene Thomas celebrates Black femininity as a means for healing, empowerment, and liberation. Borrowing its title from a text by bell hooks’s All About Love (2018), Thomas’s first major touring exhibition features more than 80 works made over the last two decades. Exuberant, confident, and larger-than-life, Thomas’s diverse oeuvre centers themes and subjects that have long been excluded from art historical narratives. In the 9-by-12 foot “A Little Taste Outside of Love” (2007), for instance, Thomas reimagines the trope of the reclining odalisque with a Black female protagonist, her body turned away from the viewer while her gaze meets theirs head on.

The Broad (thebroad.org)
221 South Grand Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles
Through September 29

Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh’s two-venue museum survey spans the last 20 years of her career, with the California African American Museum highlighting her film and video work, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art showcasing her large-scale sculpture, and both institutions featuring pieces from her presentation in the US pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Leigh’s multi-layered practice explores the complexities of Black female identity, incorporating art forms and traditions from throughout the African diaspora as well as precedents found in African art and architecture. Highlights include hanging sculptures composed of breast-like forms made from cast watermelons from her trophallaxis series (2008/17); “Breakdown” (2011), a cinematic collaboration with Liz Magic Laser juxtaposing scenes of “female hysteria” from film and TV with musical accompaniment by opera singer Alicia Hall Moran; and “Cupboard” (2022), a massive bell-shaped sculpture composed of raffia fibers that references communal vernacular architecture, women’s garments, and colonial histories of taxonomy and domination.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (lacma.org)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles

California African-American Museum (CAAM) (caamuseum.org)
600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles
Through January 20, 2025

Best in Low: Lowrider Icons of the Street and Show

The United States’s love affair with the car finds its apogee in the customized, pinstriped mobile artwork known as the lowrider, an icon of SoCal Black and Latinx car cultures. It takes a diverse crew of artists and craftspeople to assemble the dazzling painted exterior, plush interior detailing, and mechanical hydraulics into a unified automotive gesamtkunstwerk. The exhibition showcases a selection of classic lowriders, tricked-out trucks, and modified motorcycles, highlighting both their aesthetic and technical qualities. Highlights are Manuel Corbala’s “Strictly Business,” a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with its trendsetting paint job including a custom mural on the underside of the hood; Joe Ray’s “Las Vegas”, a 1979 Lincoln Continental covered in images of Sin City landmarks with a casino-themed interior complete with craps table; and Jesse Valadez’s “Gypsy Rose,” a 1964 Chevrolet Impala known as “the most iconic lowrider of all time” which gained notoriety cruising down Whittier Boulevard in the opening of 1970s sitcom Chico and the Man.

Petersen Automotive Museum (petersen.org)
6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through Spring 2025

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