November in Los Angeles brings us shows that highlight art’s role as both a reflection of everyday life and a force to help change our reality. Retrospectives on the work of Henry Taylor and William Kentridge focus on their approaches to identity, race, and culture in their respective homes: Los Angeles and South Africa. An exhibition at Angels Gate Cultural Center showcases the multifaceted programs of the community-based Slanguage Studio. Shows at the Vincent Price Art Museum and Skirball Cultural Center highlight the potential of art to memorialize and record our histories. And Cauleen Smith conjures a multi-media blueprint for liberation through film, color, and sound.
Lizette Hernandez: Despierta
Lizette Hernandez’s ceramics toe the line between seeming familiar and alien, encouraging prolonged viewing. The deftly crafted wall works and free-standing sculptures incorporate Mexican religious design motifs but stretch these references into formal abstractions, glazed in bright green against the deep brown clay. Finger marks are left visible, signs of human touch amidst their exquisite construction.
1819 3rd Avenue, Arlington Heights, Los Angeles
Through November 11
Slanguage Studio: We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We
Since its founding two decades ago by artists Mario Ybarra, Jr. and Karla Diaz, Slanguage Studio has grown from a small artist-run space to an internationally-recognized community studio known for its educational, exhibition, and performance programs. We Run Things, Things Don’t Run We presents an intergenerational group of 20 artists who have been involved with various aspects of Slanguage’s commitment to engagement, pedagogy, and activism. Participating artists include Raul Baltazar, EJ Hill, Amitis Motevalli, Felix F. Quintana, Guadalupe Rosales, and many more.
Angels Gate Cultural Center (angelsgateart.org)
3601 South Gaffey Street, San Pedro, California
Through December 10
Lauren Halsey’s vibrant sculptures and installations reflect the streetscapes of the South Central communities she grew up in. Featuring vernacular signage, highly-keyed colors, and images from popular and archival media, she creates architectural environments that memorialize and monumentalize that which has been lost even as they look ahead to a hopeful future. Her long-running show at Cal State University Dominguez Hills, which closes in early December, brings her work back home to her roots in South Los Angeles.
California State University, Dominguez Hills Art Gallery (gallery.csudh.edu)
1000 East Victoria Street, LCH A-107, Carson, California
Through December 10
With today’s political polarization, the notion grows that there are “two Americas” with little hope of reconciliation. “Un-Civil War” at the Torrance Art Museum takes aim at this unique moment in American civic life, featuring artists who engage with issues of politics, liberty, oppression, and tyranny in their work. Participating artists include Lisa Anne Auerbach, Sandow Birk, Dread Scott, Bruce Yonemoto, Gabie Strong, and others.
Torrance Art Museum (torranceartmuseum.com)
3320 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, California
Through December 10
Don Ed Hardy / Laurie Steelink: Evidence of Things Unseen
Evidence of Things Unseen juxtaposes the work of Don Ed Hardy and Laurie Steelink who have been friends for 30 years. Hardy is best known for his role in bringing tattooing into the mainstream but he has been focused on his own art practice since retiring from tattooing in 2008. Steelink, who is featured in the current California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, explores her own complicated identity as a Native American raised by an adoptive White family. Her assemblages incorporate powwow regalia with found objects and elements of earlier artworks, imbuing them with humor and a punk aesthetic. Taken together, their works reflect lives dedicated to individual creative searching.
Track 16 Gallery (track16.com)
1206 Maple Avenue, #1005, Downtown, Los Angeles
November 5–December 17
Cauleen Smith: My Caldera
Cauleen Smith’s 2021 solo show at LACMA, Give it or Leave it, brought together film, installation, colored lights, and archival materials to construct a phantasmagoric exploration of Afro-futurist liberation. Her upcoming solo show My Caldera, takes a similarly expansive approach, looking at volcanoes as a metaphor for overthrowing the status quo, from the ecological and geological, to the social and political. Incorporating hand-sewn banners, topographical candles, film, disco, and heavy metal, the show is akin to an immersive, theatrical protest manifesto.
Morán Morán (moranmorangallery.com)
641 North Western Avenue, East Hollywood, Los Angeles
November 5–December 22
Phung Huynh: Sobrevivir
Between 1968 and 1974, over 200 Latina women were coerced into being sterilized by the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Following an apology by the LA County Board of Supervisors in 2018, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture commissioned Phung Huynh to create a public artwork commemorating the apology and honoring the survivors. Titled Sobrevivir, the steel sculpture features floral designs, the praying hands of the Virgen de Guadalupe, and survivors’ prayers. A related exhibition at the Vincent Price Art Museum showcases working designs for the sculpture alongside patchwork quilts created by other artists and activists, highlighting the continuing struggle for reproductive justice.
Vincent Price Art Museum (vincentpriceart.museum.org)
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, California
Through February 18
Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories
Quilts and other textiles have been used for generations to preserve and convey stories about the identities of the communities that produced them. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Fabric of a Nation expands on the tradition of the American quilt with works by folk and contemporary artists including Sanford Biggers, Bisa Butler, and Harriet Powers. The Skirball’s presentation of the exhibition includes Los Angeles-based artists Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Joel Otterson, and Ramsess, alongside the Ellis Island Quilt from its own collection, which commemorates Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants.
Skirball Cultural Center (skirball.org)
2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Brentwood, Los Angeles
November 17–March 12
William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows
South African artist William Kentridge has wrestled with his country’s tortured history, and his own identity as a White South African, throughout his career. In Praise of Shadows brings together 130 works created over 35 years, focusing on the breadth of his output, including drawings, prints, sculptures, theatrical collaborations, and film, including the hand-drawn animations he is best known for, made through a painstaking process of drawing and erasure. A highlight of the show will be Kentridge’s 2012 video installation “The Refusal of Time” which touches on relativity, colonialism, and Victorian industrialism.
The Broad (thebroad.org)
221 South Grand Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles
November 12–April 9
Henry Taylor: B Side
Henry Taylor: B Side is a thirty years retrospective covering painting, sculpture, and installation from the influential LA-based figurative painter. His flat, acrylic painting style draws comparisons with classic Modernists like Marsden Hartley or Jacob Lawrence, but his subject matter is decidedly contemporary. Depicting friends, fellow artists, cultural and historical icons, Taylor’s portraits offer an incisive and empathetic vision of Black life in America.
Museum of Contemporary Art Grand Avenue (moca.org)
250 South Grand Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles
November 6–April 30