Our December LA art guide caters to holiday lovers and haters alike, from a cheeky “sexy Xmas” show to a bazaar featuring creative zines. Also, if you haven’t seen the Obama Portraits in person, they’re worth it, especially since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has mounted a dazzling show on Black American portraits to go alongside them.


Kim Dingle: Pudgey Pomona

Kim Dingle, “Pudgey Pomona, Reference Librarian Workstation Diptych” (1930–2021), oil on canvas, 1930s desk, candy, chair, Librarian’s accruments, portrait of Millard Fillmore as Alec Baldwin, Field Guide to Found Objects Volume II, dimensions variable (image courtesy the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles, photo by Jeff McLane)

When: through December 18
Where: Vielmetter Los Angeles (1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101, Downtown, Los Angeles)

Don’t miss out on this Los Angeles-based artist’s curious and sensitive work. The exhibition is curated by one of Dingle’s characters, Pudgey Pomona, a reference librarian who appears in a blue floral shirt against a lemon yellow background in a portrait at the entrance. The 1962 lime green jaguar parked outside the gallery is also Miss Pomona’s, we are told. Inside, you’ll find a delicate marble collection, a cookie cutter in the shape of Cagliari, Italy, a world atlas of animals, and so much more.

Anna Valdez: My Own Private Arcadia and b chehayeb: horses in my chanclas

When: through December 11 (chehayeb); through December 18 (Valdez)
Where: Ochi Projects (3301 & 3305 W Washington Blvd., Mid-City, Los Angeles)

These two solo shows at Ochi Projects present young painters who explore themes of landscape and site. In My Own Private Arcadia, Oakland-based artist Anna Valdez’s vibrant canvases play with pattern, color, and representation, torn between landscape, still life, and dream-like fantasia. b chehayeb’s paintings are more abstract, but bear evocative traces of formative years spent in West Texas as referenced in the show’s title horses in my chanclas: a dusty, muted color scheme, ranche life, Spanglish words.

Highways & Byways

Highways & Byways installation view (photo by Elon Schoenholz)

When: through December 18
Where: Residency Art Gallery (310 East Queen Street, Inglewood, California)

The LA-based 3B Collective is a group of artists hailing from indigenous and immigrant backgrounds who collaborate with institutions and other artists to create murals and public artworks. For Highways & Byways, the group looks at the links between urban renewal, large infrastructure projects, and gentrification, specifically as they affect BIPOC communities. Through mixed-media assemblages, painting, and photography, their works draw a link between earlier periods of colonialism and disenfranchisement, and the reshaping of LA by developers and civic leaders taking place today.

Sexy Xmas V

Brad Phillips, “Brad Phillips 20202” (2020), oil on canvas, 16 × 12 × 1/4 inches (image courtesy the artist and the Lodge)

When: through December 24
Where: the Lodge (1024 N Western Ave, East Hollywood, Los Angeles)

Have yourself a Sexy Little Xmas! Now a tradition, the Lodge stages its fifth iteration of salacious, Christmas-timed art that is not always “kid appropriate.” Works include Edward Cushenberry’s flirty paintings, Johnny Smith’s suggestive photos of clothing, and even an Ed Ruscha silkscreen of … cockroaches. More sexy art, please (Christmas or no Christmas). 

Violins of Hope

The Star of David Violin featured in Violins of Hope (courtesy Holocaust Museum LA)

When: through January 8, 2022
Where: Holocaust Museum LA (100 the Grove Drive, Fairfax, Los Angeles)

Violins of Hope is a collection of violins all owned by Jews before and during WWII. Some were kept hidden and smuggled to safety by their owners, others survived even when their owners perished. Restored by Violin-makers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, the collection is a testament to hope and survival, and a reminder of a vibrant culture that was largely decimated. Violins of Hope at the Holocaust Museum LA includes 13 of the 60 violins in the collection, and will be accompanied by concerts featuring the original instruments.


SeenUNseen at LA Louver, featuring Vanessa German (image courtesy LA Louver)

When: through January 8, 2022
Where: LA Louver (45 N Venice Boulevard, Venice)

Celebrated artist Alison Saar curates a show at LA Louver on “spirit portraiture,” a genre close to her own heart and practice. Featuring sculptures, tapestries, paintings, and photographs, the contemporary artists behind these works (including Vanessa German, Rina Banerjee, and several others) are also “believers, agitators, healers, and mediums.” They help us to see the unseen.

Yaron Michael Hakim: Psittaciformes

Yaron Michael Hakim, “Self-Portrait as a Painted Pyrrhura Turquoise-fronted Amazon” (2021), Acrylic on used Dacron sailcloth and canvas, 92 x 168 inches (photo by the author)

When: through January 9, 2022
Where: Grand Central Art Center (125 N Broadway, Santa Ana, California)

With a style reminiscent of 19th-century naturalist illustrations, Yaron Michael Hakim depicts South American macaws and parrots in their lush jungle environs. Look closer and these hybrid creatures feature human eyes, noses, and mouths that peek out from behind brightly colored plumage. Born in Colombia, Hakim was adopted and raised in a Jewish family, growing up in Australia, Europe, and the US. Painted on Dacron sails — referencing his peripatetic journey — his exquisite paintings capture his fragmented and layered identity with pathos and curiosity. Ocarinas modeled on the artist’s nose question physical stereotypes, interjecting a note of humor into his reflections on selfhood.

Zines del Sol

Zines del Sol installation view (courtesy Tierra del Sol Gallery)

When: through December 23
Where: Tierra Del Sol Gallery (945 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles)

Zines are an inexpensive and democratic way for artists and writers to share their work with the public. Tierra del Sol Gallery presents their first ever zine show, Zines del Sol, which features artists working with the Tierra del Sol Foundation, founded in 1971 to offer creative support to individuals with disabilities. The show takes a broad definition of zine, including printed materials, textiles, dolls, ceramics, and more. Events include a poetry reading on Saturday, December 4, and a zine workshop and holiday bazaar on Saturday, December 11.

Cog•nate Collective: Manos a la Obra

Cog•nate Collective: Manos a la Obra installation view (photo by Marc Walker, courtesy the artists and 18th Street)

When: through February 5, 2022
Where: 18th Street Arts Center (Airport Campus) (3026 Airport Ave, Santa Monica)

Translated as “Let’s Get to Work,” Manos a la Obra continues Cog•nate Collective’s exploration of transborder economic systems and how they function on the local level. The show features work made in collaboration with participants in their Market Exchange program, an initiative that envisions a community marketplace as a site of empowerment for vendors and artisans. A Pop Up Artisan Marketplace will be held at the gallery on January 29.

Black American Portraits

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “I Still Face You” (2015), acrylic, color pencils, charcoal, oil, and transfers on paper, 84 × 105 in. (© Njideka Akunyili Crosby, courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner, photo: Joshua White Photography)

When: through April 17, 2022
Where: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles)

The portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald respectively are milestones in both art and civic culture: the first official portraits of an African-American president and their spouse by African-American artists. To accompany their presentation in the touring Obama Portraits (on view through January 2), LACMA has mounted the exhibition Black American Portraits, which brings together 150 works created over the past two centuries depicting Black subjects. Largely created by Black artists, these images show the importance of reclaiming one’s own representation, countering dominant visual narratives of Black bodies centered on fetishization, otherness, or absence. Artists include Charles Gaines, Lezley Saar, Kerry James Marshall, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Carrie May Weems, and many others.

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.

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