ArtFinder: Southern California Museum and Gallery Shows in February


Across Southern California, new and continuing exhibitions showcase the diverse offerings of local art world luminaries and international artists as well. From the fine photographers of National Geographic showcasing works at the Annenberg Space for Photography to Cheech Marin's collection of small-scale Chicano Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, SoCal's cultural landscape is burgeoning with activity.

Angelenos can get their culture on with the ninth annual "Museum Free-For-All" on Saturday, Jan. 25, when some Los Angeles area museums offer free admission to the public. Some institutions are already free, like the Getty Center, and the free-ness doesn't apply to parking, or special exhibitions, like LACMA's "Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic." This museum madness is a chance to preview what other diverse institutions around Southern California are offering; provoking temptation to make museum hopping a habit.


NEW! Objects are Closer than They Appear: Recent Works by Manfred Müller
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
February 2 - March 2

The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery's 10,000 square-foot space is taking on museum ethos. Opening February 2 are exhibitions on Manfred Müller's meditative sculpture and F. Scott Hess' vibrant painted human forms. Scott Canty is the provocateur and curator.

Four Abstract Classicists
Through June 29

When brushstrokes went from frantic abstract urgency to mid-century pop observations, Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin were exhibited together in 1959, showing how they played with bold color within hard-edged lines. It was a thrust of colored field painting with movement, but no reference to specific images. These details (of unknown forms) is what critic and curator Jules Lansnger titled "abstract classicism" when he gathered those four artists for Los Angeles County Museum in Exposition Park, the cultural predecessor of LACMA, in "Four Abstract Classicists." The original works for that exhibition are not being revisited at LACMA, but the grouping is a historical reference point for Los Angeles exhibitions.

The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years
Annenberg Space for Photography
Through April 27

The Photography Space shifts its exhibition tone with this installation of National Geographic images from 1888 to now with video walls that loop over 500 images, and prints making wall mosaics. The constant moving images show how digital pushes a new power of photography to archive the globe.

CLOSING! MARVELS & MONSTERS: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986
Japanese American National Museum
Though February 9

It's the last few weeks for an exhibition on the portrayal of a culture. At the Japanese American National Museum, visual stereotypes take a cheeky feel as walls are transformed into comic book pages marked by sections titled with labels like "The Brain," "The Alien," "The Lotus Blossom," and "The Temptress." Under the visual playfulness is a serious examination of the history of cultural labels, briefly encapsulated within a cartoon bubble. "These iconic images -- good and bad -- can have real world effects on people's perceptions of themselves and those around them," says William F. Wu, owner of the collection. Those perceptions are still played out today, and not always on a subconscious level. The exhibitions was given added subtext with CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother." The backlash from the cast using yellow face in a recent episode prompted a tweeted apology from co-creator Carter Bays.

Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California
Pasadena Museum of California Art
Through April 20

Exhibited in four sections -- "L.A. Stories," "Many Women," "Religious Piety," and "Forever Mexico" -- Alfredo Ramos Martínez has his first comprehensive museum survey at Pasadena Museum of California Art. Focusing on work produced between 1929 and 1946, the Mexican-born artist is positioned as a muralist and Modernist who lead that movement coming out of Southern California.


John Altoon, Untitled (Ocean Park Series), 1962; oil on canvas, 72 x 84 in. | Orange County Museum of Art.

California Landscape Into Abstraction: Works From The Orange County Museum Of Art
Orange County Museum of Art
Through March 9

Orange County Museum Of Art opens up their collection to showcase California's early 20th Century commute from abstraction to landscape. The Modernist forms, a response to color and light of the region when there was still vast empty space, brought distinct West Coast color to canvas beyond the call of the early 20th Century real estate booster.

NEW! Beethoven: The Late Great
Bowers Museum
Opens February 8, through May 18

Bowers Museum joins the celebration of the The 60th anniversary of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, and the send-off of president and artistic director Dean Corey, in his 21st and final season. The exhibition of rare Beethoven artifacts, curated by Dr. William Meredith, Director of the Beethoven Center, San José State University, includes personal letters, handwritten manuscripts, and drafts of personal scores from the Library of Congress, a West Coast debut.The exhibition also includes Beethoven's life mask of 1812, two locks of the composer's hair from 1827, and the account leaf that gives a peek into the composer's daily life, as recorded by his housekeeper.


Jari WERC Álvarez, Donkey Show, 2008, mixed media, 12 x 24 inches. | Collection of Cheech Marin. © Jari WERC Álvarez 2013.

Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown, Jacobs Building
Through March 23

The current stop for Cheech Marin's collection of small-scale Chicano artworks is the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's annex. "Chicanitas" are works, mostly within 16-square inches, created by established and emerging figures, including Leo Limón, Patssi Valdez, Jari "Werc" Álvarez, Ana Teresa Fernández, and Sonia Romero. Joined by John Valadez and Sandy Rodriguez, Cheech introduced his latest tour of Latino landscapes and portraits that come in small doses.

Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories Are Worth Repeating
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Though April 20

Santa Barbara gives California the "first comprehensive exploration" of sculptor Alice Aycock's process. Santa Barbara Museum of Art tracks her career from 1984 to the present with studies and drawings showing the path to her large-scale work. Earlier works and process, from 1971 to 1984, are exhibited at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara. The two-venue show was organized by the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York.

Free-For-All January 25: Here's a complete list of museums inviting the public for "Free-For-All."

Annenberg Space for Photography
Armory Center for the Arts
Autry National Center of the American West
California African American Museum
California Science Center
Fowler Museum at UCLA
Getty Center
Getty Villa (RSVP for tickets required)
Hammer Museum
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial (Hollywood and San Pedro)
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Latin American Art
Orange County Museum of Art
Paley Center for Media
Pasadena Museum of California Art<
Santa Monica Museum of Art
Skirball Cultural Center
USC Pacific Asia Museum

Top image: "Around a round" by Frederick Hammersley. | © Frederick Hammersley Foundation.

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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