6 Can't-Miss End-of-Year L.A. Museum Exhibitions

Installation view of "Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
(© Ken Price, Photo © Fredrik Nilsen)

LOS ANGELES — With 2012 drawing to a close and a new artgoing season in the works, now is the final chance to visit many of this year’s major exhibits. ARTINFO’s Yasmine Mohseni reports on the top six end-of-the-year L.A. museum shows.

“Zarina: Paper Like Skin,” Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, through December 30


This is the first retrospective of the Indian-born American artist Zarina. The approximately 60 works on display dating from 1961 to the present reveal the artist’s mastery of a largely paper-based practice. Her delicate and minimalist work engages the universal concept of home: a city, a family, a culture or spirituality. The deeply personal and moving work alludes to the artist’s country of origin, such as in the architectural “Shadow House” or with the use of precious material in “Blinding Light.” The largely subdued monochromatic palette invites the viewer to contemplate the meditative nature of the work.

Jordan Wolfson, “Raspberry Poser,” REDCAT, CalArts Downtown Center for Contemporary Arts, 631 West 2nd Street, through January 27, 2013

Wolfson’s 14-minute video exists at the intersection of the beautiful and the absurd, the polished and the grotesque. A condom resembling a swath of delicate silk floats through the streets of New York’s SoHo while a rubbery anthropomorphic HIV virus bounces around a child’s stuffed-animal filled room and across a Caravaggio painting. Through the use of sophisticated video animation and CGI, Wolfson creates a world populated by disparate characters that range from an angry, self-destructive cartoon kid to the artist dressed as a skinhead while visiting and enjoying historical sites in Paris, set to the music of Mazzy Star and Beyonce. Although REDCAT isn’t technically a museum, “Raspberry Poser” accomplishes what many museums strive to achieve, which is to present work that appeals to a wide audience, including initiates to contemporary art, and asserts a rigorous artistic and conceptual framework.

“Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, through January 6, 2013

The visually lush exhibition presents the recently deceased artist’s long and productive career. His innovative ceramic-based practice revolutionized the way the medium is considered, raising it from craft to fine art. Architect Frank Gehry — a friend of Price’s for nearly 50 years — executed the beautifully pared-down exhibition design, which serves as a neutral backdrop to Price’s eclectic and colorful sculptures.

Lesley Vance & Ricky Swallow, The Huntington, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, through March 11, 2013

Vance and Swallow, a married couple who are both active artists in Los Angeles, present a selection of works displayed in the galleries at the Huntington in Pasadena. The 19th-century historical estate and garden isn’t typically known for exhibiting contemporary art, and this painting and sculpture exhibition provides an interesting dialog through the juxtaposition of Vance’s small surrealist-inspired work and Swallow’s pared-down abstract sculpture with the gallery’s historical work, which features masters such as John Constable, Jean-Antoine Houdon, J. M. W. Turner and Jean-Antoine Watteau.

“Drawing Surrealism,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, through January 6, 2013

“Drawing Surrealism” features 250 works by nearly 100 artists from 15 countries, tracing a chronological trajectory of the development of Surrealism from an innovative early 20th-century style to a vital part of today’s art historical lexicon.  The comprehensive large-scale show underscores the importance of works on paper in the practice of Surrealist artists such as Man Ray and Max Ernst. Curator Leslie Jones creates a through-line between this art historical style and contemporary art by including projects by L.A.-based contemporary artists Alexandra Grant, Mark Licari, and Stas Orlovski.

“Blues for Smoke,” MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary, 250 South Grand Avenue, through January 7, 2013

This large-scale interdisciplinary exhibition explores a vast range of contemporary art, music, literature and film through the prism of blues and blues culture. Featuring over 50 artists from the 1950s to the present, including many works commissioned specifically for this occasion, the exhibition underscores MoCA’s ongoing role as a vital venue for ambitious and innovative programming. Artist Glenn Ligon served as a consultant for the show, which showcases diverse media in the visual arts, including painting, such as Kerry James Marshall’s “Blue Water Silver Moon (Mermaid)” and large-scale mixed-media installations like David Hammons’s “Chasing the Blue Train”.