September is back-to-school time, and that pedagogical impulse extends to the exhibitions listed below as well. Whether its Dan Levenson’s fictional modernist Swiss art school; shows that contextualize the work of Kaari Upson and Lawrence Weiner, who both passed away last year; or the Fulcrum Festival focused on the deepest reaches of space and the sea, there’s definitely lots to learn.
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Dan Levenson: Two Proposals for the Formation of a New Art School
The State Art Academy, Zürich (SKZ) is a fictional modernist art school akin to the Bauhaus, brought to life through painting, performance, and sculpture. This elaborate ruse is the work of LA-based contemporary artist Dan Levenson, who has created faux-aged geometric abstractions supposedly painted by the school’s students and weathered studio furniture, even going so far as to invent a class roster using an algorithm and a Swiss phone book. Two Proposals for the Formation of a New Art School features two miniature classrooms and associated works: one based on actual art classes for children which employed the imaginary SKZ curriculum devised by Levenson, and another in which the roll of a die is used to determine color choices, interjecting an element of play and chance into pedagogy.
6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through September 10
Alphabet Soup 2
Alphabet Soup 2 showcases the work of six acclaimed Los Angeles-based street artists who are each known for their distinctive letterforms or handstyle. Participants include Chaz Bojorquez, who popularized “Cholo-style” calligraphy beginning in the late 1960s; Retna, whose angular symbols grace building facades around LA; and Big Sleeps, who brings a refined precision to traditional LA street style; alongside Cryptik, Defer, and Prime. The exhibition comes almost a decade after the original Alphabet Soup show, offering a window on to these artists’ development.
Eastern Projects (easternprojectsgallery.com)
900 North Broadway, #1090, Chinatown, Los Angeles
Through September 17
Fulcrum Festival: Deep Ocean/Deep Space
This year’s Fulcrum Festival, an annual series of talks, workshops, performances, and exhibitions exploring the intersection of art and science, is based around the theme of “Deep Ocean/Deep Space,” looking to both celestial and aquatic wonders. The event is organized by nonprofit Fulcrum Arts in partnership with more than a dozen organizations including the Carnegie Observatories, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 18th Street Arts Center, and the LA Dance Project. Offerings include sound installations and star gazing organized by artist CM von Hausswolff at the Mount Wilson Observatory; a 24-hour durational audio/visual rumination on LA’s last extant wetlands, the Ballona Wetlands; and Victoria Vesna’s multimedia project that draws links between microscopic plankton and space dust.
Venues around Greater Los Angeles (fulcrumfestival.org)
The Portable Universe: Thought and Splendor of Indigenous Colombia
The Portable Universe brings together 400 objects that open a window onto Indigenous peoples and cultures in Colombia. Featuring several objects on loan from El Museo del Oro in Bogota, the exhibition is an attempt to move away from a Western-centric framework and is informed by a collaboration between curators and members of the Arhuaco of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The masks, sculptures, and tools included in the show are grouped by thematic sections shaped around the cosmology of the peoples who used them, and the exhibition labels lack dates, stressing the use of these objects in everyday life across generations.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (lacma.org)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through October 2
Kaari Upson: never, never ever, never in my life, never in all my born days, never in all my life, never
Before her death last August at the age of 51, Kaari Upson had emerged as one of the most dynamic and innovative artists in Los Angeles, whose heterogeneous body of work was defined by material curiosity and psychological intensity. Through a practice that spanned sculpture, performance, video, painting, and drawing, Upson mined the dark corners of domesticity and family with a mixture of disquiet and humor. never, never ever…, her first LA solo show in over 10 years, reflects this breadth, featuring new bodies of work such as colorful abstract paintings that reference both the modernist grid and gingham: formalism and familiar fashion. It also marks the US debut of “Kris’s Dollhouse” (2017–19), an uncanny human-sized version of a dollhouse made from resin, urethane, wood, and aluminum: part haunted house, part rumination on childhood, gender, and friendship.
Sprüth Magers (spruethmagers.com)
5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Through October 8
Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: A Tribute to Lawrence Weiner
Lawrence Weiner, who died last December, was a seminal figure in the development of Conceptual Art. His 1968 dictum that declared “THE WORK NEED NOT BE BUILT” was a key tenet of the dematerialization of the art object. He is best known for his language-based artworks, enigmatic phrases rendered in paint or vinyl letters on gallery and museum walls. His simple and poetic statements, almost always set in the typeface he developed, Margaret Seaworthy Gothic, extend to viewers an invitation for further inquiry to generate meaning. Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky is testament to his wide-reaching influence, featuring work by over fifty artists, from his contemporaries such as Sol LeWitt, Mel Bochner, and Lee Lozano, to younger generations represented by Glenn Ligon, Sue Williams, Wolfgang Tillmans, and others. The exhibition will also feature a collaboration with the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, as well a selection of roughly 150 posters and publications designed and produced by Weiner.
Regen Projects (regenprojects.com)
6750 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles
September 15–October 22
Ray Anthony Barrett: …of frontiers and phantoms
Visual artist and chef Ray Anthony Barrett investigates the histories and mythologies of the American West. This has taken the form of his pop-up restaurant Cinqué, which traces the roots of Soul Food from California to the American South to West Africa, as well Go Tell It On The Mountain, an experimental film dealing with food justice amidst climate crisis. …of frontiers and phantoms features quilts made from calico, cotton, and denim, sculptures made from railroad ties and shell beads, photographs, and drawing that depict the Western US as a site of breathtaking natural beauty but also crushing exploitation — of people and natural resources — in the service of capital.
Wilding Cran (wildingcran.com)
1700 South Santa Fe Avenue, Unit 460, Downtown, Los Angeles
September 10–October 29
Justen Leroy: Lay Me Down in Praise
Justen LeRoy’s three-channel film installation “Lay Me Down in Praise” links the struggle for Black empowerment with the environmental movement. LeRoy juxtaposes footage of Black performers with scenes of volcanic eruptions and other geological events, drawing a connection between expressive vocal craft with terrestrial tumult. Curated by Essence Harden of the California African American Museum (CAAM), the exhibition marks the beginning of a five-year museum residency through which CAAM will organize shows to be presented at Art + Practice in Leimert Park.
Art + Practice (artandpractice.org)
3401 West 43rd Place, Leimert Park, Los Angeles
September 17–January 21, 2023
Tala Madani: Biscuits
Tala Madani’s cast of anonymous, average White men act like babies. They smear their feces, vomit on each other, and run around in the nude. More than simply cheekily transgressive celebrations of the abject, Madani’s painting confront cultural taboos and entrenched power structures, embedding feminist critique within painterly delights. Biscuits is the Iran-born, LA-based artist’s first North American survey exhibition.
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (moca.org)
152 North Central Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles
September 10–February 19, 2023
Narsiso Martinez: Rethinking Essential
Narsiso Martinez draws and paints portraits of farm workers directly onto produce boxes, making visible the often unseen labor that brings food from the fields into our homes. The Oaxacan-born artist has first-hand knowledge of his subject matter, having worked in the orchards of Eastern Washington for nine summers to pay for his education. His installation Rethinking Essential at MOLAA depicts these essential laborers, their eyes looking out from behind masks and hats, with dignity and respect, heir to an art historical lineage that weaves through the Mexican muralists and Millet’s “The Gleaners.”
Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) (molaa.org)
628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, California