Photographic surveys of underground communities, a Brazilian artist’s books and films, a fictional perfume campaign and an array of naughty erotic drawings. Plus: maps made of wax, art in a pit and a performance by artist-activists the Guerrilla Girls. It’s all going down all around SoCal:
“Brian Weil 1979-95: Being in the World” at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The first retrospective of the photographer, whose work in photography, prints and video was devoted to highlighting members of insular and invisible communities. (He would often spend years with his subjects.) The show gathers images from various series devoted to sexual fetishists, Miami homicide detectives, members of New York’s Hasidic community and more. Opens Saturday at 3 p.m. and runs through April 18. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, smmoa.org.
“Paulo Bruscky: Artist Books & Films,” 1970-2013, and “Vivian Suter: Panajachel,” at the Mistake Room. In the Arts District, the Mistake Room is turning over its galleries to a pair of South American-born artists. Bruscky is a key Brazilian conceptualist, who came of age during the military dictatorship there, where he staged wry actions — such as standing around with a sign that asked what art is good for — but also created a large body of mail art, artist books and Super 8 films. Also on view will be the abstract paintings of the Argentina-born Suter, who now lives and works in Guatemala. Opens Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and runs through March 14. 1811 E. 20th St., downtown Los Angeles, tmr.la.
Mira Dancy, “Is She Is She Psychic,” at Night Gallery. Playing with the psychological and graphic qualities of advertising and harkening back to Marcel Duchamp, who once created his own perfume-related project, Dancy uses a series of paintings to imagine an ad campaign for an invented fragrance called “Herfume Perfume.” Opens Saturday at 7 p.m. and runs through Feb. 21. 2276 E. 16th St., downtown Los Angeles, nightgallery.ca.
“Mike Kuchar: Saints and Sinners” at François Ghebaly. The underground filmmaker is also an artist, known for homoerotic drawings that are as salacious as there are fantastical and hilarious — depicting studly gladiators, well-endowed dinosaur hunters and a Viking with a very large, um, weapon. It’s as if someone took Tom of Finland and mashed it up with the bright palette and outrageous scenarios of a superhero comic. In other words, totally NSFW. Opens Saturday at 7 p.m. and runs through Feb. 14. 2245 E. Washington Blvd., downtown Los Angeles, ghebaly.com.
Jason McLean, “Soda Gardner,” at Wilding Cran Gallery. Drawing and painting and random found objects find their way into the bright work of this New York-based artist, known for fusing surreal landscapes, abstract doodles and cartoon-like figures. Opens Saturday at 6 p.m. and runs through Feb. 21. 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, wildingcran.com.
Kon Trubkovich, “House of the Rising Sun,” at Ohwow Gallery. The Moscow-born artist presents a series of new paintings that are based on footage of President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, with the static of the transmission distorting the clarity of the images. Trubkovich will also have a video work culled from online footage of Russians singing “House of the Rising Sun.” Opens Saturday at 6 p.m., and runs through Feb. 14. 937 La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, oh-wow.com.
Glen Kaino, “Labyrinths,” at Honor Fraser. A series of new installations by the L.A.-based artist examines ideas of location and memory: maps reconfigured into origami, others rendered in wax and then melted down, and a 40-foot wall made of wax cinder blocks that creates a hard boundary that is also fragile and ephemeral. Runs through Feb. 14. 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, honorfraser.com.
“Mending Wall,” a group show, at The Pit. This relatively young gallery in Glendale (it is only a few months old) has a worthwhile group show that also looks at ideas of construction, with an impressive lineup of works that features the architectonic photographs of John Houck, gritty works on paper by Huma Bhaba and ethereal paintings by Jake Kean Mayman that explode machine-like bits in subtle pastel shades. There is even an assemblage by Sean Kennedy displayed in a pit in the floor — the unusual space from which the gallery takes its name. Runs through Feb. 22. 918 Ruberta Ave., Glendale, the-pit.la.
G.T. Pellizzi, “Before Completion,” at Harmony Murphy Gallery. A series of sculptures and wall installations are inspired by the architecture of the gallery and the “I Ching” — exploring the notion of objects and ideas on the verge of being completed. Runs through Feb. 14. 679 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, harmonymurphygallery.com.
“Guerilla Girls: Art in Action,” at Pomona College Museum of Art. Posters, handbills, books and newsletters drawn from the museum’s permanent collection chronicle the actions of the longtime feminist art-activists who have long made a mission and lots of art out of their fight for greater artist diversity in America’s cultural institutions. Opens Tuesday and runs through May 17. On Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m., the Guerilla Girls will be on hand for a performance and reception. 330 N. College Ave., Claremont, pomona.edu/museum.
Carolyn Castaño, "Mujeres Que Crean/Women Who Create: Medellin, Colombia - New Works in Mixed Media," at the New Americans Museum. The L.A.-based Castaño, known for her lush paintings that touch on various aspects of the drug war, has created a site-specific installation at this renewed San Diego exhibition hall that features, among other elements, survivors of Colombia's armed conflict reenacting poses from historical art works. Opens Friday and runs 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-decades-long career. Through March 22. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.
“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., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
“Pierre Huyghe” at the L.A. County Museum of Art. The hallucinatory retrospective of the French conceptualist, better known for his experimentations (a site-specific sculpture made out of a beehive) than the production of serial objects. Read our handy unsanctioned guide to the show. Through Feb. 22. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
Christine Corday, “Protoist Series, Selected Forms,” at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Corday's 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., Mid-City, Los Angeles, lacma.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.
“In Focus: Play,” at the Getty Museum. A series of 20th century images that capture humans of all ages in acts of gaming, carousing, celebration and vacation. Through May 10. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
“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.
“The Heart Is the Frame,” at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. A thoughtful group exhibition (I wrote more about it here) gathers a wide range of video, photographic and sculptural works for a look at the ways in which art can penetrate everyday life. Through Feb. 14. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, welcometolace.org.
Liz Magic Laser, “The Thought Leader,” and Anna Sew Hoy, “Face No Face,” at Various Small Fires. Laser creates a fictional TED talk out of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Notes From Underground" while Sew Hoy shows void-filled sculptures that employ material (such as denim) in wry and unlikely ways. Runs through Feb. 21. 812 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, vsf.la.
Gillian Wearing, “Everyone,” at Regen Projects. Wearing is known for creating riveting video pieces that play with ideas of truth and lies. A new video, “Fear and Loathing,” is Wearing's first produced in the United States. Through Jan. 24. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, regenprojects.com.
Alma Allen, at Blum & Poe. Allen's bulbous and amoeboid pieces have a suppleness and buoyancy that seem to defy gravity — and the heavy materials (like marble) from which they are made. Runs through Feb. 28. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, blumandpoe.com.
Sadie Benning, “Fuzzy Math,” at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. The New York-based artist produces puzzle-like paintings that mix bold, bright color with graceful texture. Opening reception 6 p.m. Saturday. Runs through Feb. 14. 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, vielmetter.com.
David Stork, “10 Block Square: Havana 1999,” at Couturier Gallery. An L.A-based photographer captures Cuba in the 1990s, when he documented a 10-block square section of Havana amid a profound economic crisis. Runs through Feb. 14. 166 N. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park, Los Angeles, couturiergallery.com.
“Roberto Chavez: Portraits,” at Glike Gallery. If you missed Chavez's retrospective at the Vincent Price Art Museum, now's your chance to see this important artist and educator's paintings, which often verge on the mordantly funny. Runs through Feb. 22, 5890 Blackwelder St., Suite B, Culver City, glikegallery.com.
“Space Program,” at Steve Turner. Turner unveils his new Hollywood exhibition space with a group show by his stable of artists — including sculpture by Yung Jake and paintings by Deborah Grant. The standout is a behemoth 20-foot collaged piece about corruption and drug war violence by Camilo Restrepo. Runs through Feb. 7. 6830 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, steveturner.la.
“When It Is Dark Enough” and "Lucien Shapiro: The Wore,” at CES Gallery. "When It Is Dark Enough" is a group show of hallucinatory and augmented images of people. A smaller exhibition displays Lucien Shapiro's masks, crafted from discarded items such as bottle caps. Runs through Jan. 24. 709 Mateo St., downtown Los Angeles, carlesmithgallery.com.
Rhonda Lieberman, “The Cats in Residence Program,” at 356 Mission. Because there’s no such thing as too many cats, Lieberman is staging a gallery “purrformance” with lots of feline players as well as an interspecies lounge/installation designed by Freecell Architecture and Gia Wolff. Runs through Jan. 25. 356 S. Mission Road, downtown Los Angeles, 356mission.com.
“Three Painters: Walpa D’Mark, Barbara Kaleta, and Ian Pines,” at Coagula Curatorial. Works by three emerging Los Angeles painters collectively touch on everything from psychedelia to landscape to the visceral bits of the human body. Runs through Feb. 14. 974 Chung King Road, coagulacuratorial.com.
Joanne Mitchell, “All the Hallways,” at Proxy Gallery. The gallery in a box has a new show up by L.A. artist Mitchell consisting of all the hallway scenes from Chantal Akerman’s 1975 drama “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.” Through Jan. 31. Otis Graduate Studios, 10455 Washington Blvd., Culver City, ospace.otis.edu/proxy_gallery.
“Elemental: Seeing the Light,” at Descanso Gardens. Taking on the subject of light, this group show looks at the ways in which artists — from light and space stalwart Larry Bell to photographer Nancy Macko — are inspired by ethereal rays. Opening reception 3 p.m. Sunday. Runs through April 5. 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, descansogardens.org.
Richard Misrach at Marc Selwyn Fine Art. In his "Scrubs" series, the influential photographer captures tight details of desert vegetation in ways that render the plants abstract. Through Saturday. 9953 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, marcselwynfineart.com.
Ben Berlow at Farago. A new gallery space shows paintings by the L.A.-born/New York-based Ben Berlow, who often works with bits of found paper as his canvas. Through Friday. 224 W. 8th St., downtown Los Angeles, farago.xyz.
Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.