Spring art preview: Robert Adams at LACMA, Aphrodite at Getty Villa

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After six months of Southern California museum shows dominated by Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-sponsored studies of L.A.'s post-World War II emergence as a major international production center for new art, the spring season turns in several other directions.

Aphrodite meets Quetzalcoatal, to name just two:

Natalie Bookchin: Now he’s out in public and everyone can see

The stark and evolving differences between corporate-owned commercial television and personally created online video should get thrown into high relief in an 18-channel installation by Natalie Bookchin, provocatively titled ‘Now he’s out in public and everyone can see.’ The subject of the work, developed over the course of more than two years, is publicly reported scandal involving African American men.


Bookchin, who teaches in the photography and media program at CalArts, has designed a montage of independently produced online video diaries to scrutinize similarities, distinctions and relationships among individual interpretations of those news events. Social media is creating a new public platform for documentary television. The installation, especially timely during a presidential election year, aims to add another dimension to the mix.

LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), 6522 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 957-1777. March 8-April 15. Closed Mon. and Tue. Free.

Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs

Forty years of pictures by Robert Adams, a former English literature professor in Colorado who didn’t devote his primary energies to photography until he was 30, will survey his long-term engagement with the radically changing Western landscape. Between 1968 and 1971, Adams photographed suburban housing and shopping developments being newly built in the region where the Great Plains rise up into the Rockies, which he published as a book titled ‘The New West.’

His work was also included in the landmark 1975 exhibition, ‘New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape,’ which changed the course of American camera work. ‘The Place We Live,’ organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, where the master set of Adams’ photographs is housed, will feature nearly 300 photographs and numerous publications in an effort to create what the museum calls ‘an epic narrative of American experience.’

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 857-6000. March 11-June 3. Closed Wed. $10-$15.

Aphrodite and the Gods of Love

Restitution of looted antiquities to Italy by the Getty Villa and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is yielding fruit, as this exhibition chronicling the role of Aphrodite in ancient art makes plain. The show, recently closed in Massachusetts, includes sculpture and decorative objects from both museums’ permanent collections, as well as major Italian loans. From Rome’s renowned Palazzo Massimo, for example, comes a famous second century copy of a Greek sculpture of a sleeping hermaphrodite, child of Aphrodite’s liaison with Hermes.

Aphrodite is a complicated subject -- born as one among numerous deities of the ancient Near East, absorbed into a primary role in Greek mythology and then transformed into Venus by the Romans. The show will assemble sculptures, vase paintings and a variety of decorative objects to look at her genesis, her involvement in human affairs (often romantic) and the ways in which ancient societies worshiped the beautiful goddess.

Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, (310) 440-7300. March 28-July 9. Closed Tues. Free (parking: $15).

Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico

The Aztecs repeatedly tried -- and often failed -- to subjugate many of ancient Mexico’s numerous indigenous societies, including those in the southern part of the region. So did Spain’s conquistadors. Nahua, Mixtec and Zapotec nobles in the south formed a confederacy to resist, and what worked in their fights against the Aztecs was frequently successful in their later struggles with the Europeans.

The allied nobility called themselves ‘Children of the Plumed Serpent.’ In a Mesoamerican version of Europe’s claim of the divine right of kings, the term reflects their claim of direct ancestry from Quetzalcoatl, the human incarnation of a powerful, feathered-serpent deity. The exhibition will focus on the late post-Classic period, roughly spanning the 13th century to the Spanish conquest early in the 1500s. The art on view will include fresco fragments, decorated manuscripts, polychrome ceramics, gold ornaments, turquoise and shell objects, textiles and -- not surprisingly -- highly prized works made from feathers.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 857-6000. April 1-July 1. Closed Wed. $10-$15.

Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974

Have you seen Robert Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty,’ the pivotal 1970 earthwork made from salt-encrusted rocks arrayed into an imposing, 1,500-foot-long spiral path that juts out into a remote section of Utah’s Great Salt Lake? If so, odds are the artistic encounter was with photographs, film or video, rather than the environmental sculpture itself. Land art is often located in sparsely populated rural areas around the globe.

This large-scale survey will consider the late-1960s and early-1970s phenomenon of land art as partly a media practice, dependent on cameras, as much as one concerned with traditional sculptural issues like mass, form, weight, volume and time. More than 80 artists and projects will be considered, spanning the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, Iceland, continental Europe and North and South America. Special consideration will be given to Michael Heizer’s ‘Double Negative,’ a massive trench dug across a canyon in the Nevada desert and completed just before Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’; the Heizer work is part of MOCA’s permanent collection.

MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo, (213) 626-6222. April 8-July 30. Closed Tue. and Wed. $5-$10. RELATED:

Spring arts preview: Architecture

Spring arts preview: Theater

Spring arts preview: Classical music

Spring arts preview: Dance

Spring arts preview: Jazz

-- Christopher Knight