As the dog days of summer draw to a close, finding worthwhile art shows in Los Angeles can be a challenge. Museums are getting ready for their big fall openings, and gallerists are most likely savoring the remaining week of their August break. There’s still lots to see, however, and listed below are a few options located a short drive outside the city, from an open-air desert museum to a sprawling, underground horticultural complex.
The International Printing Museum
When: Open Saturday, 10am–4pm, or by appointment Tuesday-Friday (Adults: $10; Students & Seniors: $8)
Where: The International Printing Museum (315 W. Torrance Blvd., Carson, California)
Housing the Ernest A. Lindner Collection of Antique Printing Machinery, one of the most extensive collections of printing artifacts, the International Printing Museum is a must-visit for designers, typographers, bibliophiles, and lovers of printed matter. Covering 500 years of printing history, the collection ranges from massive, colonial-era presses, to tabletop letterpresses, to drawers full of wooden type and even a linotype machine, which was the height of printing technology in the ’70s, before being rendered obsolete by digital publishing. In addition to museum tours and classes, they also organize an annual printers fair, at which you can buy parts, type, and equipment to start your own print shop.
Distance from downtown LA: approx. 30min
The San Diego / Tijuana Border & Friendship Park
When: US Side: Open Saturdays and Sundays, 10am–2pm; Mexico side: Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Where: Friendship Park (Costa, 92154 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico)
The US–Mexico border has received an incredible amount of attention from politicians and activists over the past year, but its highly contested status has also drawn the focus of artists from both sides. Several artists have created work on or at the border that is meant to challenge our administration’s plans for a wall, while highlighting the deep cross-border relationships, both economic and social, that already exist. Many of these are based around Friendship Park, located on both sides of the fence by the ocean. In addition to temporary installations, there is also a Binational Garden which spans the border in a unifying display of flora. The sterile US side of the border park is only open a few hours each weekend, but the Mexican half never closes, its side of the wall covered in murals and graffiti, as families gather for picnics by the Tijuana beach.
Distance from downtown LA: approx. 3hr
Forestiere Underground Gardens
When: Open Wednesday–Sunday, check schedule for tours (Adults: $17; Seniors, College Students, Military: $15; Children ages 5-17: $8)
Where: Forestiere Underground Gardens (5021 W. Shaw Ave, Fresno, California)
Baldassare Forestiere came to Fresno from Sicily in 1901 with the hope of becoming a citrus farmer, but his plans were thwarted when he found the soil too hard to plant anything. Being the resourceful man who he was, that didn’t stop him. He just kept digging, and over the course of 40 years, he had excavated and planted over 10 acres of underground passageways and gardens, incredibly using primarily hand tools. Several varieties of fruit trees still grow in his subterranean plots, which can be toured with a guide, providing a fascinating glimpse at one man’s singular, life-long devotion to a dream.
Distance from downtown LA: approx. 3hr 30min
The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation
When: Open Thurs. & Sat., 12–4pm (Exhibitions are free; Tours – $15–$50)
Where: The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation (131 Carnelian Street, Alta Loma, California)
Furniture designer Sam Maloof was a seminal figure in the midcentury crafts movement in the US. He considered himself first and foremost a woodworker, and his objects were characterized by a simple, organic quality that honored the integrity of his materials. Comprising his home, workshop, and gardens, the Maloof Foundation is a living museum that showcases his appreciation for impeccable craftsmanship alongside his instantly classic designs.
Distance from downtown LA: approx. 1hr 10min
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum
When: Open daily sunup to sundown (Free)
Where: Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum (63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California)
Assemblage art pioneer Noah Purifoy began his career making sculptures out of the detritus of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, and his work from this period has the charred patina of urban decay. In the late ’80s, however, Purifoy’s art and life would take a decidedly different turn, when he moved to Joshua Tree, where he remained until his death in 2004. While Angelenos were treated to a retrospective of his work at LACMA in 2015, there’s nothing like seeing works from his late period in their natural environment. Across 10 acres of the Mojave Desert, the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum features dozens of large-scale assemblage works sourced from discarded materials, infused with all the whimsy and pathos that Purifoy is known for.
Distance from downtown LA: approx. 2hr 30min