Paintings that play with everything you think you are seeing ... photographs that chronicle Northern California's marijuana cultivation industry ... and a thorough examination of that vital piece of infrastructure that gives life to our city: the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Plus, a show that's all about paintings and the latest short films. Here are five new shows to see in L.A. this week, plus a selection of the best ongoing art events:
"After the Aqueduct" at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. In a time of drought, this exhibition couldn't be more timely: a selection of projects by artists and designers that focus on the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the 233-mile conveyance system that helps keep all those lawns green and pools filled in the greater metro area. Through April 12. There will be a panel discussion Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the issue of water and Los Angeles. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, welcometolace.org.
H. Lee, "Grassland," at Spot Photo Works. Planting, cultivation and harvest — photographer H. Lee captures the entire life cycle of the marijuana cultivation industry in Northern California. Opening reception Saturday at 6 p.m. Runs through April 28. 6679 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, spotphotogallery.com.
"Mernet Larsen: Chainsawer, Bicyclist, and Reading in Bed" at Various Small Fires. Paintings that distort and bend perspective. Larsen's work is representational — showing blocky, video game-like figures in an array of activities — but her industrial Modernism-meets-M.C.-Escher-style settings will toy with your sense of perception. Through April 11. 812 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, vsf.la.
"Craig Taylor: Enface," and Annelie McKenzie, "The Enthusiast," at CB1 Gallery. The second round of shows in CB1's new space are all about painting — from the painterly abstractions of Craig Taylor (he will often bury a figurative image in earthy marks) to paintings of paintings by Annelie McKenzie, in which the artist remakes images by lesser known figures with touches of craft. Opens Saturday and runs through April 11. There will be a reception for the artists on Saturday, March 14 at 3 p.m. 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, cb1gallery.com.
The 14th Annual Young Directors Night at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Film critic Elvis Mitchell hosts a series of short films by L.A. filmmakers. A good opportunity to see what's fresh. Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; tickets ($25-100; $45 general admission) can be purchased online in advance. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
Anish Kapoor at Regen Projects. The influential sculptor's show of new works contains pieces that bear his trademark shimmering, minimalist lines (such as the torqued prism made of steel). But the star of the show is an earthy cave crafted from resin and earth that seems to erupt from the gallery floor. Through Saturday. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, regenprojects.com.
"Tom of Finland: Early Work, 1944-1972" at David Kordansky Gallery. Kordansky has an array of drawings, gouaches and inked storyboards by the renowned illustrator of erotica, known for the confident and virile ways in which he depicted gay male sexuality. Be prepared for racy images if you click through. Through Saturday, 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Los Angeles, davidkordanskygallery.com.
"Vertigo@Midnight: New Visual AfroFuturisms & Speculative Migrations" at Pomona College and Scripps College. A pair of related exhibitions tracks the influence of Afrofuturism in art — that intersection of sci-fi, music, graphics and the history of the African diaspora. Through Friday at the Pomona College Studio Art Hall Chan Gallery (370 N. Columbia Ave.) and the Scripps College Clark Humanities Museum (981 N. Amherst Ave.), Claremont, pomona.edu.
"Paulo Bruscky: Artist Books & Films, 1970-2013" and "Vivian Suter: Panajachel" at the Mistake Room. A pair of shows feature the work of Bruscky, a key Brazilian conceptualist known for his wry actions and Super-8 films, and the Argentina-born painter Suter, who creates abstract works. Through March 14. 1811 E. 20th St., downtown Los Angeles, tmr.la.
"XX Redux: Revisiting a Feminist Art Collective" at Guggenheim Gallery. A show of important materials by an under-the-radar art collective that was committed to expanding the presence of women artists. Through March 14. Chapman University, Moulton Hall, One University Drive, Orange, guggenheimgallery.org.
Jason McLean, "Soda Gardner," at Wilding Cran Gallery. Drawing, painting and random found objects find their way into surreal landscapes, abstract doodles and cartoon-like figures. Extended through March 14. 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, wildingcran.com.
"Jacci Den Hartog: The Etiquette of Mountains" at Rosamund Felsen Gallery. A series of sculptural works depict and explore the nature of the mountaintop. Through March 14. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, rosamundfelsen.com.
Deanna Thompson and Michael Auder, "Mixing Up the Medicine," at Kayne Griffin Corcoran. This two-person exhibition captures a dialogue between Auder and Thompson — the former sends the latter photographs of himself that she turns into altered portraits. Through March 14. 1201 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, kaynegriffincorcoran.com.
Carolyn Castaño, "Mujeres Que Crean/Women Who Create: Medellin, Colombia," at the New Americans Museum. Known for lush paintings that touch on the drug war, Castaño has created a site-specific installation that features survivors of Colombia's armed conflict reenacting poses from historical artworks. Through March 21. 2825 Dewey Road, San Diego, newamericansmuseum.org.
Josef Koudelka, "Nationality Doubtful," at the Getty Center. A retrospective on the important Czech-born photographer gathers more than 180 works from throughout the artist's six-decade career. Through March 22. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.
Amir Fallah, "Perfect Strangers," at the 18th Street Arts Center. As part of his residency at the Santa Monica arts center, Fallah is collaborating with area locals on a series of portraits and self-portraits — incorporating painting, photography and sound. Through March 27. 1639 18th St., Santa Monica, 18thstreet.org.
"Thomas Burke: Dutch Jailbreak, New Paintings" at Western Project. Burke's diamond-shaped canvases ride abstraction's hard edge, with bold architectonic color fields that also play with a viewer's sense of depth. Through March 28. 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, western-project.com.
"Hélène Binet: Fragments of Light," at WUHO Gallery. For 25 years, Binet has photographed great works of architecture around the world — from Zaha Hadid's Rome museum to Peter Zumthor's Klaus Field Chapel. An exhibition of her works is now on view at Woodbury University's Hollywood gallery. Through March 29. 6518 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, jsiarchitecture.woodbury.edu and wuho.architecture.woodbury.edu.
Malick Sidibé: Studio Malick, Bamako Mali, at Maloney Fine Art. The noted Malian photographer is exhibiting more than 40 years of portraiture. Sidibé is renowned for matter-of-fact black-and-white images that captured the lives of young people in the wake of independence. Through April 4. 2680 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, maloneyfineart.com.
Kenny Scharf, "Born Again," at Honor Fraser. A new show by the pop icon will feature a salon-style installation of his "Born Again" series, which feature his signature blob characters redecorating a vast array of thrift-store paintings. Through April 4. 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, honorfraser.com.
Brad Eberhard at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. A series of small-scale abstract paintings are pieced together in various ways, with paint, collage, sanded surfaces and frames constructed from found objects. Through April 4. 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, vielmetter.com.
"Elemental: Seeing the Light," at Descanso Gardens. Taking on the subject of light, this group show looks at the ways in which artists are inspired by ethereal rays. Through April 5. 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, descansogardens.org.
Christine Corday, "Protoist Series, Selected Forms," at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Corday's oversized bendy steel sculptures don't sacrifice playfulness for mass. Don't miss them in LACMA's courtyard area (by Ray's & Stark Bar). Through April 5. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, lacma.org.
John Currin at Gagosian Gallery. The New York-based Currin is known for his paintings of pillow-y women that seem to draw as much from 17th century European painting as they do from pin-ups. A show of new works adds erotic layers to his regular mix of nudes. Through April 11. 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, gagosian.com.
Robert Overby, "Absence as Presence: Trace, Erasure, Eradication and Lack," at Marc Selwyn Fine Art. Ghostly latex castings of architectural elements (such as doors) and the reproduction, in plaster or concrete, of quotidian household objects mark the work of the late California artist. Uncanny and surreal. Through April 11. 9953 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, marcselwynfineart.com.
"Amir H. Fallah: From the Primitive to the Present" at Charlie James Gallery. One year ago, Fallah hit an estate sale in North Hollywood where he stumbled upon a cache of personal objects belonging to one family: photographs, diaries and home movies. These have inspired a series of works based on these personal objects. Runs through April 11. 969 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles, cjamesgallery.com.
"Coop - Works on Paper, 1987-2015" at Coagula Curatorial. The lowbrow painter and hot-rod artist is known for his pieces depicting devilish pin-ups and raging monsters. Coagula has now gathered two decades' worth of the artist's work. Through April 11. 974 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles, coagulacuratorial.com.
"Jessica Rath: A Better Nectar" at the University Art Museum. Rath uses a combination of light, sound and sculpture to channel the experience of a bumblebee in search of nectar. The highlight is a human-scaled beehive with responsive acoustic elements. Through April 12, at Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, csulb.edu/org/uam.
"Nohubito Nishigawara: Seeing" at the Grand Central Art Center. Nishigawara produces ceramic sculptures that draw inspiration from sources such as religious iconography and manga drawings. Through April 12. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, grandcentralartcenter.com.
"Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia: Mis Papeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Brilliantly hued woven paper works include abstract pieces that practically take on the feel of a textile. Through April 18. 1301 Cesar Chavez Ave., Monterey Park, vincentpriceartmuseum.org.
"Brian Weil 1979-95: Being in the World" at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The first retrospective of a photographer devoted to highlighting members of insular and invisible communities — from sexual fetishists to members of New York's Hasidic community. Through April 18. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, smmoa.org.
"Robert Williams: Slang Aesthetic" at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery. The godfather of lowbrow art has a sprawling one-man show of recent works that includes drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture. Also on view is the related exhibition "20 Years Under the Influence of Juxtapoz," which brings together the young artists featured in the popular art magazine (which Williams helped found). Through April 19. Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, lamag.org.
"World War I: War of Images, Images of War" at the Getty Research Institute. On the 100th anniversary of World War I, the exhibition gathers art about the experience, including propaganda and vernacular pieces. Through April 19. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.
"The U.S. Constitution and the End of American Slavery" at the Huntington Library. More than 80 objects, including letters by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, explore the tumultuous road that led to the abolition of slavery. Through April 20. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, huntington.org.
"Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change" at the Annenberg Space for Photography. An exhibition of photographs shows the ways in which humans have been contending with the rise of sea levels around the globe. Through May 3. 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, annenbergspaceforphotography.org.
"Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters" at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. A series of works produced by a loose network of eight male quilters features elaborate pieces depicting everything from heavy metal iconography to biker imagery to sports. To find out more, read this feature on the quilters by my colleague Jessica Gelt. Through May 3. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, cafam.org.
"Boticelli, Titian and Beyond: Masterpieces of Italian Painting From Glasgow Museums" at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Drawn from the outstanding collection of Italian art at Scotland's Glasgow Museums, this exhibition tracks the evolution of painting in Italy over five centuries — featuring works by Bellini, Boticelli and Titian. Through May 3. 1130 State St., Santa Barbara, sbmuseart.org.
Jonas Becker, "The Pile," at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. A lush multimedia installation includes video, photography and a pile of cushiony hand-crafted sculptures that explore questions of desire. Through May 3. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, cafam.org.
"Guerilla Girls: Art in Action" at Pomona College Museum of Art. Posters, handbills, books and newsletters chronicle the actions of the longtime feminist art-activists. Through May 17. 330 N. College Ave., Claremont, pomona.edu/museum.
"When the Future Had Fins: American Automotive Designs and Concepts, 1959-1973" at Christopher W. Mount Gallery. Car concept drawings from the Big Three American automakers — back when power and futuristic lines were rendered in pen and ink. Through May 20. At the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, christophermountgallery.com.
"J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free," at the Getty Center. J.M.W.'s Turner's canvases were expressive explosions of color and light at a time when many paintings were still pretty darn literal — to this day, their power remains undiminished. This exhibition gathers more than 60 works from his last 15 years of life, a period when Turner produced some of his most enduring works. DO. NOT. MISS. Through May 24. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.
Charles Gaines, "Gridwork 1974-1989," at the Hammer Museum. The first museum survey of the L.A.-based artist brings together early works that play with ideas of mapping and gridding, taking images of trees and moving dancers and abstracting them into coolly mathematical pieces. Through May 24. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, hammer.ucla.edu.
"Alien She" at the Orange County Museum of Art. An exhibition tracks the far-reaching influence of the Riot Grrrl movement of the early '90s, when artists, musicians and other cultural figures created a wide range of work that brought together punk music with gender, sexuality and feminism. Through May 24. 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, ocma.net.
Fred Tomaselli, "The Times," at the Orange County Museum of Art. Since 2005, this L.A.-born, O.C.-raised painter with a knack for the hallucinogenic has taken to reworking the cover photographs of the New York Times in ways that are poignant, funny and just plain weird. Through May 24. 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, ocma.net.
"Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio" at the Hammer Museum. Architectural and industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick has designed everything from a handbag for Longchamp to the dramatic, dandelion-like Seed Cathedral, which was the U.K. pavilion at 2010's Shanghai World Expo. This exhibition examines his prodigious output. Through May 24. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, hammer.ucla.edu.
Hammer Projects: Pedro Reyes at the Hammer Museum. The socially minded Reyes has staged a people's United Nations that employs techniques from theater games and group therapy as a way of resolving urgent issues. Through May 24. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, Los Angeles, hammer.ucla.edu.
"Robert Henri's California: Realism, Race, and Religion, 1914-1925" at the Laguna Art Museum. An exhibit in Laguna Beach gathers the California works of the noted American realist portraitist, who spent long periods in Southern California painting a wide cross-section of locals — from business leaders to area Indians. Through May 31. 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, lagunaartmuseum.org.
Armin Hansen, Jim Morphesis and Lars Jan at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. A trio of exhibitions includes a survey of Armin Hansen (1886-1957), a painter known for his oceanic scenes, as well as a show by L.A. artist Jim Morphesis, a painter whose expressionistic canvases combine elements of assemblage. In the project space, Lars Jan has an installation that explores ideas of disaster and survival. Runs through May 31. 490 E. Union St., Pasadena, pmcaonline.org.
"Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School" at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Forty-five paintings by the best-known artists of the American landscape movement, including Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church. Through June 7. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"Bari Kumar: Remembering the Future" at Charles White Elementary. At LACMA's satellite space, Kumar shows a series of paintings that combine bits of imagery that he harvests from fine art and popular culture. Through June 13, 2401 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"Islamic Art Now" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Contemporary works from LACMA's permanent collection by 20 artists who live in or have roots in the Middle East look at questions of society, gender and identity. Runs indefinitely. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, lacma.org.