We’re back with our first monthly roundup of art exhibitions in 2021, and I’m particularly enthusiastic about this selection. There’s a mix of Los Angeles minimalism, an overlooked surrealist, exciting work from recent MFA grads, and poignant art made during the pandemic.

Please note that with such a high rate of coronavirus infections in Los Angeles, most galleries are open by appointment only or are presenting their exhibitions online.

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Johah Elijah, “Window Pain” (2019), assemblage, 46 x 36 inches (image courtesy the artist and Self Help Graphics & Art)


When: through February 6
Where: online at Self Help Graphics & Art

This virtual exhibition is an excellent opportunity to acquaint yourself with three talented recent MFA graduates based out of California: William Camargo, Jonah Elijah, and Álvaro D. Márquez. These artists work across different media (photography, installation, and painting) but all share an interest in how race, class, and gender intersect in urban environments. From commentary on Los Angeles’s real estate landscape to a mapping Anaheim’s formerly segregated public spaces, Intersections is rich with history.

Installation view of Patricia Fernández: Heartbeats at Commonwealth and Council (photo by Ruben Diaz, image courtesy the artist and Commonwealth and Council)

Patricia Fernández: Heartbeats

When: through February 6
Where: by appointment at Commonwealth and Council (3006 West 7th Street #220, Koreatown, Los Angeles)

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, our sense and use of time has radically changed. Over these past months, Patricia Fernández has thought about what it means to “mark time” when her days have become less regulated. Heartbeats is filled with clocks without their hands, replaced instead with materials that Fernández gathered from her walks, like bits of wood and earth. Each “clock” is intended to represent an individual rhythm, “like a heartbeat: an internal clock.”

Jeffrey Gibson, “YOU’LL BE GIVEN LOVE” (2020), repurposed trading post weaving, acrylic felt, nylon thread, artificial sinew, glass beads, plastic beads, nylon fringe, cotton canvas, 47 x 48 x 3 inches (image courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California, photo by Max Yawney)

Jeffrey Gibson: It Can Be Said of Them

When: through February 20
Where: online at Roberts Projects

In this joyous display of new work, Jeffrey Gibson homes in on the “unique experiences, struggles and personal victories shaping the current fight for LGBTQIA visibility.” The title of the show is inspired by a print by Sister Corita Kent, who, in borrowing a quote by E.B. White (“It can be said of him”), changed the pronoun “him” to “them.” It Can Be Said of Them is filled with colorful affirmations: “Yes! We Can”; “They Choose Their Family”; “Bring Down the Walls.” Collectively, Gibson’s artworks are both a balm and rallying cry.

Jim Adams, “Lil Zoose” (2008), acrylic on canvas, hand-painted artist frame, 49 x 37 inches (image courtesy the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)

Jim Adams: Eternal Witness

When: through February 27
Where: Luis De Jesus Los Angeles (2685 South La Cienega Boulevard, Mid-City, Los Angeles)

Jim Adams, an artist based out of British Columbia, presents a collection of paintings and drawings mostly drawn from a series named Mythic Sketches. The artist is interested in how myths, “both classic and obscure,” still represent the realities and struggles we undergo today: “jealousy, ambition, hubris, greed, and the glorification of warfare.” His images carry signs of ancient Egyptian pyramids and ruins, but his subjects are updated for the times: all heroes and deities wear 21st-century garb.

Karen Carson, “Untitled” (1971), unstretched canvas, zippers. 3-part, 74 x 19’9 x 8 inches, dimensions variable (image courtesy the artist and GAVLAK, Los Angeles / Palm Beach, photo by Grant Mudford)

Karen Carson: Middle Ground

When: through March 6
Where: by appointment at GAVLAK Los Angeles (1700 South Santa Fe Avenue #440, Downtown, Los Angeles)

As Sarah Gavlak, the owner of the gallery, says, Karen Carson has been “a staple in the Los Angeles art scene since the 1970s.” Her work emerged during the Minimalism movement, though her pieces are often more playful and warm compared to those of her peers. On view are Carson’s 1970s “zipper” series, inspired by the tents she used to camp in as a child. The pieces, which were sewn by hand, are interactive, as visitors are encouraged to pull the zippers to create new forms. You’ll also get to see her newest pieces, dating as recently as 2020, for which Carson hand-carved and painted bits of wood in shapes that evoke the landscapes of the American West.

Titus Kaphar, “Redaction (San Francisco)” (2020), etching and silkscreen on paper (image courtesy Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts, photo by Christopher Gardener)

The Black Index

When: January 14–March 20
Where: online at Contemporary Arts Center Gallery at University of California, Irvine

This group exhibition celebrates “Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images,” featuring works by Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas. Curated by Bridget R. Cooks, an associate professor in the departments of African American Studies and Art History at UC Irvine, The Black Index aims to challenge and disrupt viewers’ preconceptions around Black representations — questioning, for instance, “our reliance on photography.” A virtual tour will be posted to the website following the opening of the exhibition and there will be a host of virtual talks with the featured artists throughout January and February.

Cammie Staros, “Onyx arcus” (image courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian)

Cammie Staros: What Will Have Being

When: January 16–March 6
Where: by appointment at Shulamit Nazarian (616 North La Brea Ave, Hancock Park, Los Angeles)

The Los Angeles-based artist Cammie Staros conjures what world we might leave behind after floods and droughts. Objects resembling ancient sculptures sink to the bottom of aquariums and fragments of precious materials appear forgotten, left behind. The strange and beautiful collection of works summons both an “ancient past” and “environmental reckoning.”

Doug Aitken, “Target” (2020), hand-dyed cotton, 116 x 118 1/2 inches (© Doug Aitken, courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles) 

Doug Aitken: Flags and Debris

When: January 16–March 13
Where: by appointment at Regen Projects (6750 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

During the coronavirus pandemic, Doug Aitken sewed together large wall hangings from the materials he could find in his home. Each piece — which is likened to a flag, banner, and “protective covering” — incorporates a phrase or word that speaks to these tumultuous months: “Noise,” “Nowhere/Somewhere,” “Digital Detox.” The exhibition also shares a film of choreographed performances that Aitken did with the LA Dance Project, in which dancers move through empty stretches of Los Angeles with the new fabric pieces.

Women braid their hair while sitting on the porch in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, featured in Tightrope at the Skirball Cultural Center (photo by Lynsey Addario)

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

When: January 21–May 31
Where: online at Skirball Cultural Center

This online exhibition features around 30 images by photojournalist Lynsey Addario, who investigates the opioid epidemic, prison industrial complex, and lack of affordable healthcare in the United States. The project is inspired by the book Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, by journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, published to wide acclaim last year. Once the exhibition goes live later this month, it also promises to share ways to get involved with “organizations offering viable solutions to overcome a half-century of policy failure.”

Clarence Holbrook Carter, “Over and Above, Sloth” (1966), mixed media on board, 11 x 9 inches (image courtesy Various Small Fires, Los Angeles/ Seoul)

Clarence Holbrook Carter

When: January 23–February 27
Where: by appointment at Various Small Fires (812 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

This will be Clarence Holbrook Carter’s first solo exhibition on the West Coast, and it’s bound to surprise you. An under-recognized artist from Ohio working in the style of Surrealism, Carter’s imaginative and sometimes humorous paintings reflect on death, our relationship to animals and nature, and human psychology. Spanning from the 1920s to the 1990s, these works are a must-see.

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.