A show that mines the archives for odd bits of museum history and another that unearths early photographs of animals. Plus: abstract painting, images of windshields and a talk about how L.A. does — and doesn’t — preserve its history. Here’s what we’ve got in this week’s Datebook:
“Various Small Fires (Working Documents),” at the L.A. County Museum of Art. This is a show that illuminates unusual bits of LACMA history: the plan to have a robot patrol the galleries or the time a dog worked as a security guard. Included in the mix: Ed Ruscha’s working sketch for his infamous mid-'60s canvas: “The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire.” Just the sort of historical weirdness I can totally get behind. Opens Saturday and runs through Feb. 7. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
“In Focus: Animalia,” at the Getty Museum. Drawn from the museum’s collection of photographs, this small show focuses on the relationship between human and animal as defined by the camera’s lens. This includes work by early 19th century photographers who captured dogs, wild felines and even taxidermy game in early photographs and daguerreotypes. In other words: just because there was no internet, doesn’t mean people weren't making images of cats. Through Oct. 18. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
Andrew Dadson, “Painting (Organic),” at David Kordansky Gallery. Intensely layered abstractions feature breadth as well as depth, with paint manipulated into three-dimensional forms right on the surface of the canvas. The show also includes ink-jet paintings and an installation involving spray-painted plants. Opens Friday and runs through July 11. 5130 Edgewood Place, Mid-City, Los Angeles, davidkordanskygallery.com.
Liza Ryan, “Wind(Shield),” at Kayne Griffin Corcoran. A series of photographs by the L.A.-based artist examine that fragile membrane that protects the average 2-ton vehicle barreling around at 65 mph: the windshield. Images of wrecked and abandoned cars capture reflections of sky over webbed cracks and fractured glass. Opens Friday at 7 p.m. and runs through July 11. 1201 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-City, Los Angeles, kaynegriffincorcoran.com.
Zocalo Public Square: "Is L.A.’s Past Worth Saving?” a panel at the Plaza on Olvera Street. A conversation between novelist Denise Hamilton, Libros Schmibros founder David Kipen, L.A. Weekly writer Dennis Romero, essayist Lynell George and L.A. Office of Historic Resources Manager Ken Bernstein take stock of how our city has and hasn’t preserved its most important historical sites. Moderated by KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez. Monday at 7:30 p.m. The Plaza on Olvera Street, downtown Los Angeles, zocalopublicsquare.org.
Raymond Pettibon, “From my bumbling attempt to write a disastrous musical, these illustrations must suffice,” at Regen Projects. Pettibon marries disconnected texts and images in monochrome as well as richly colored pieces that owe as much to punk rock as they do to comic books. Through Saturday. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, regenprojects.com.
Andrea Marie Breiling, “Stretchin’ It Out,” at Sonce Alexander Gallery. Plastic wrap, old bits of canvas, found objects, liquid latex and other found bits make their way into Breiling’s works, which straddle the gritty divide between painting and sculpture. Through Saturday. 2634 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, soncealexandergallery.com.
Nery Gabriel Lemus, “Just So Stories,” at Charlie James. For his third solo show at the gallery, this L.A.-based artist appropriates the themes and tone of Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 book, “Just So Stories,” about how certain animals came to be, and uses them to weave his own creation myths. Through Saturday. 969 Chung King Road, Chinatown, cjamesgallery.com.
Jack Davidson, Merion Estes, and a group show at CB1 Gallery. A trio of shows brings together the work of painter Jack Davidson, the bold abstract works of Merion Estes, and a group show that features works by five artists dealing with ground and landscape in their work. Through Saturday. 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, cb1gallery.com.
Ed Templeton, “Synthetic Suburbia,” at Roberts & Tilton. The photographer and painter presents a new series of paintings and drawings inspired by the people and surroundings of his home base of Huntington Beach — figures engaged in the mundane, but touched by the weird. Through Saturday. 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City, robertsandtilton.com.
Kerry Tribe, “The Loste Note,” at 356 Mission. For her latest video/sculpture project, Tribe looks at the neurological condition of aphasia, in which the language centers of the brain are damaged — hindering a person’s ability to communicate (even as personality and intellect remain unaffected). Through Sunday. 356 S. Mission Road, downtown Los Angeles, 356mission.
“Robert Henri’s California: Realism, Race, and Region, 1914-1925” at the Laguna Art Museum. The exhibit 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 Native Americans. Through Sunday. 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. Through Sunday. 490 E. Union St., Pasadena, pmcaonline.org.
Robert Rauschenberg, “Photos: In + Out City Limits,” at the Huntington Library. The museum is showcasing 15 photographs the artist took in Los Angeles in 1981 — images of shapes, landscape and odd pockets of the city. Through Tuesday. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, huntington.org.
Zak Smith, “Shred,” at Richard Heller Gallery. In his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, the artist who once created a picture for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” (an epic undertaking he collected in a book) has a gathering of works that range from wild sci-fi worlds to erotic daily scenes from his life. Through June 6. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., No. B5A, Santa Monica, richardhellergallery.com
“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.
“Light Catchers” at the California African American Museum. A reprise of an exhibition organized by the Department of Cultural Affairs in the late 1990s, this group show features the work of seven African American photographers working in Los Angeles since the late 1940s. Through June 7. 600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, caamuseum.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.
Mark Ruwedel, “Pictures of Hell,” at Gallery Luisotti. This photographer has truly been to hell — visiting places with all kinds of devilish names such as Hell, Devil’s Kitchen and Hell’s Gate and photographing them in the process. Extended through June 13. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building A2, Santa Monica, galleryluisotti.com.
“Robert Harding Pittman: Anonymization” at Spot Photo Works. Parking lots. Strip malls. And cookie-cutter communities in which one house resembles the next. Pittman captures a globalized view of development and architecture in places as disparate as Spain and South Korea. Through June 16. 6679 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, spotphotogallery.com.
“William Pope.L: Trinket” at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Among various other works, a monumental 54-foot flag flaps and snaps to a row of industrial fans in the museum’s Geffen space — a hyper-potent symbol of what true patriotism might mean. Through June 20. 152 N. Central Ave., downtown Los Angeles, moca.org.
Peter Saul, “Some Crazy Pictures,” at David Kordanksy Gallery. Known for his lurid palette and dissolving figures, the painter, now in his 80s, is known for skewering the powerful in his work. In his first show at Kordanksy, he continues to set his sights on money and how it corrupts. Through June 20. 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Los Angeles, davidkordanskygallery.com.
“Mark Grotjahn: Fifteen Paintings” at Blum & Poe. Dense layers of striated oil paint in a rainbow of colors reveal subtle images in Grotjahn’s latest abstracted works, an ongoing part of his “Face” paintings series. Look once and you’ll see bulbous banana flowers and leaf-like ornamentation. Look even closer and you might find a warrior’s partially obscured face. Through June 20. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, blumandpoe.com.
Hugo Crosthwaite, “Tijuana Radiant Shine” and “Shattered Mural,” at Luis de Jesus. Crosthwaite’s signature black-and-white-noir-meets-Mexican-comic-books style of paintings take a sculptural turn in his latest solo show at Luis de Jesus. Through June 20. 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, luisdejesus.com.
Chris Burden, “Ode to Santos Dumont,” at the L.A. County Museum of Art. The artist’s final work is a kinetic airship sculpture that pays homage to Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian-born pioneer aviator who flew a dirigible around the Eiffel Tower in 1901 in an act of flight that shocked and awed. Burden’s ship will take flight inside the Resnick Pavilion several times daily. Through June 21; check the website for flight times. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
“Melanie Daniel: Piecemaker,” at Shulamit Gallery. Fragments of figures, bits of landscape, elements of pattern and deeply saturated tones make their way into Daniel’s oil paintings — otherworldly scenarios that are drawn from her experiences living in Israel. Through June 27. 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, shulamitgallery.com.
Joaquin Trujillo, “Mal de Ojo,” at De Soto Gallery. A photographic exhibition by the L.A.-based artist plays with ideas of protection and enchantment and the Latin American superstition of the evil eye. Through June 28. 1350 Abbott Kinney Blvd., Venice desotogallery.com.
“C.O.L.A. 2015: Individual Artist Fellowships Exhibition” at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery. The Department of Cultural Affairs recently announced the winners of its City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artists Fellowships, honoring midcareer artists working in various media — from architectural installation to sculpture to painting. This group show gathers the winners’ works. Through June 28. 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, lamag.org.
Matt Siegle, “Eddie’s Gulch,” at Park View Gallery. Siegle creates paintings that record the lives of drifters who mine for gold in a canyon along the San Gabriel River, employing these in larger compositions that tell stories about independence and 21st century disenfranchisement. Through June 28. 836 S. Park View St., Unit 8, Westlake, Los Angeles, parkviewparkview.com.
Jimena Sarno, “Homeland” and “Mediations on Digital Labor: xtine burrough,” at the Grand Central Art Center. A pair of new shows explore the nature and history of surveillance in the U.S. as well as questions of cheap labor on Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk. Through July 12. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, grandcentralartcenter.com.
Nao Bustamante, “Soldadera,” at the Vincent Price Art Museum. A new multimedia installation by the well-known performance artist investigates the role of women in the Mexican Revolution — incorporating everything from bulletproof dresses to a cinematic project to hand-made objects created by a woman who survived the Revolution. Through Aug. 1. East L.A. College. 1301 Cesar Chavez Ave., Monterey Park, vincentpriceartmuseum.org.
“Ed Moses: Drawings From the 1960s and 70s” at the L.A. County Museum of Art. The drawings of this prominent Los Angeles abstract artist have historically served as the backbone of his work: intensely detailed graphite floral patterns as well as his later diagonal grids, which come together to evoke both natural and machine-like landscapes. Through Aug. 2. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"Kahlil Joseph: Double Conscience" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. A 15-minute, double-screen film tells a nuanced story of life, death and moments of magic in Compton — all set to the poetic, often abstract lyrics of native son Kendrick Lamar. Joseph is blurring the boundaries between cinema, fine art and music video. Do not miss. Through Aug. 16. 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles, moca.org.
“Oaxaca – Immigration and Cultural Memory,” at the Durón Gallery. Two dozen works by artists from around Oaxaca who deal with personal questions of immigration in their work. This includes video, painting, photography, prints and murals both inside and out the gallery space. Through Aug. 29. SPARC, 685 Venice Blvd., Venice, sparcinla.org.
“Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography” at the Getty Museum. Photography isn’t just about the image on the paper. It’s also about the processes that lead those images to appear. This group show features seven contemporary artists who are all experimenting with ways in which light and chemicals form what we see on the page. Through Sept. 6. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
“Chris Francis: Shoe Designer,” at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. Shoes that aren’t so much shoes as they are experimental works of art: Francis, a self-taught designer who lives in L.A., creates designs inspired by street art, Constructivism, Cubism and high fashion, in the process employing plywood, leather and leftover bits of fruit crates. Through Sept. 6. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, cafam.org.
“Art and Other Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans,” at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. A group show gathers works — painting, sculpture and even ceramics — by figures whose artistic practice has been shaped by their military service. This includes haunting sculptures of bones as well as decorative porcelain plates that record the lives of women in the service. Through Sept. 6. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, cafam.org.
“After Victor Papanek: The Future Is Not What It Used to Be” at the Armory Center for the Arts. A group show examines the legacy of the industrial designer who called for ecologically sound design and who didn’t believe in patents because he felt they stymied innovation. Runs through Sept. 6. 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, armoryarts.org.
“The Art of Hair in Africa” at the Fowler Museum. This exhibition brings together an array of African hair ornaments made with wood, beads, copper wire and ivory — some of them embellished with delicate bas relief carvings. It will also include a film by Ghanaian American artist Akosua Adoma Owusu called “Me Broni Ba (My White Baby),” about the role that hair plays. Through Sept. 20. UCLA, North Campus, Los Angeles, fowler.ucla.edu.
“Adams, Curtis and Weston: Photographers of the American West,” at the Bowers Museum. More than three dozen images produced by three of the most iconic American photographers tell the story of the American West — through dreamy images of landscape as well as the people that once inhabited it. Through Nov. 29. On 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, bowers.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.
Find me on Twitter at @cmonstah