The offerings this month are truly eclectic. The muralist Judy Baca finally gets an in-depth retrospective, Sanford Biggers comes to the California African American Museum, LA artists pay tribute to Joseph Beuys, and Frank Gehry has a display of luminous fish sculptures. This, and much more, below.
— Elisa Wouk Almino
Judy Baca: Memorias de Nuestra Tierra
When: July 14, 2021–January 2022
Where: Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) (628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach, California)
Memorias de Nuestra Tierra is the first major retrospective of the work of Judy Baca, who has been a pivotal figure in Chicano muralism and public art in LA for almost 50 years. The show is divided into three sections, beginning with her work exploring feminism, gender, and the body. The next section focuses on the Social and Public Art Resource Center, which she founded in 1976, and that has helped produce and restore countless murals in and around LA. The final part highlights the Great Wall of Los Angeles, Baca’s collaborative half-mile long mural exploring Los Angeles’ history as told through the stories of underrepresented groups and peoples.
Em Kettner: Slow Poke
When: through July 24
Where: François Ghebaly Gallery (2245 E Washington Blvd., Downtown, Los Angeles)
Em Kettner’s petite textile and ceramic works are poignant meditations on the disabled body. Small handcrafted tapestries are interwoven with delicate ceramic elements, creating a symbiotic suturing of care and support. Sickbeds are a common refrain in her work, a framework through which the heads, limbs, and genitals of her whimsical protagonists sprout from or poke through like weeds breaking through the cracks.
Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch
When: July 28–January 23, 2022
Where: California African American Museum (600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles)
Code-switching refers to the practice of shifting between two dialects or linguistic styles depending on context. Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch features almost 50 quilt-based works by the Los Angeles artist that draw on African-American craft traditions, urban aesthetics, sacred geometry, and other influences. Biggers began working with quilts in 2009, when he learned of the theory that 19th-century quilts were embedded with secret codes for use along the Underground Railroad, offering different messages depending on their audience.
Frank Gehry: Spinning Tales
When: through August 6
Where: Gagosian (456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles)
Frank Gehry is best known for his radiant and undulating architecture, but he is also a sculptor. It perhaps comes as no surprise that he is drawn to the swaying form of a fish: “It was startling that a static object could express motion in such a dynamic way,” he said after building his first model of a fish. Illuminated from within, a collection of them are currently swimming in Gagosian’s galleries.
Rakeem Cunningham: Hero
When: through August 7
Where: Ochi Projects (3301 W Washington Blvd., Mid City, Los Angeles)
Rakeem Cunninghman’s photographs and installations imagine what new types of superheroes would look like, especially those that don’t conform to mainstream archetypes. In his photographic self-portraits he surrounds himself with scrappy assemblages of polyester costumes, wigs, and scavenged materials, asserting his manifold identities. With nods to anime, the African-American church, and Western art history, Cunningham cheekily crafts new models of fantastical self-realization.
When: through September 4
Where: Tierra del Sol Gallery (945 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles)
California is blessed with remarkable modernist architecture, but we all don’t get to live inside it. Luckily, there’s plenty of other notable architecture as well. This show features ceramics and paintings by five artists — Sylvia Fragoso, Dan Hamilton, Maria Kim, Michael LeVell, and Evelyn Reyes — who reflect on the lived architectural environments of cities across California.
I Like LA and LA Likes Me: Joseph Beuys at 100
When: through September 12
Where: Track 16 Gallery (Bendix Bldg., 1206 Maple Avenue, #1005, Downtown, Los Angeles)
Through his pedagogy, activism, and artistic generosity, Joseph Beuys has had an outsized influence on contemporary art of the last 50 years. On the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday, Track 16 has assembled a series of Beuys’s multiples — meant to widely disseminate his ideas — alongside works by five LA-based artists who pick up on themes in his work. Curated by Hyperallergic contributor Andrea Gyorody, I Like LA and LA Likes Me — named after a performance where Beuys spent several days in a NY gallery with a coyote — refreshes the iconic German artist’s legacy with works by Beatriz Cortez and rafa esparza, veronique d’entremont, Candice Lin, and Kandis Williams.
Photo Cameroon: Studio Portraiture, 1970s-1990s
When: through December 5
Where: Fowler Museum at UCLA (308 Charles E Young Drive North, Westwood, Los Angeles)
Photo Cameroon highlights a period in post-independence Cameroon considered to be the apex of studio photography in that nation. The show features posed photographs of average Cameroonians taken by Jacques Toussele, Joseph Chila, and Samuel Finlak. Through the dress, pose, and backdrops they chose, the sitters in these photographs reveal something of their background, culture, and how they wanted to present themselves to family and friends.
Jennifer Packer: Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep
When: through February 21, 2022
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (250 South Grand Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles)
Jennifer Packer’s first solo show on the West Coast, Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep at MOCA features recent luminous, vibrant portraits of friends and family alongside floral still lifes that stand in for memorials to African-American lives lost. With an economy of deft lines and washes of paint, Packer’s portraits are at once casual, intimate, and reverent, giving her subjects the representation that has long eluded Black figures in Western art. “My inclination to paint, especially from life, is a completely political one. We belong here,” she says.
Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation
When: through March 13, 2022
Where: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles)
Legacies of Exchange presents work by contemporary Chinese artists including Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, Yue Minjun, and others, as part of LACMA’s partnership with the Yuz Museum in Shanghai. Created during a period of incredible growth and development in China, the featured artworks explore exchanges and conflicts between their country and the West, such as Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.” Composed of 12 massive bronze animal heads, it was modeled after sculptures created around 1750 by European Jesuits that stood outside Beijing until they were looted by English and French soldiers a century later during the Opium Wars.