Reviews by Christopher Knight (C.K.), Holly Myers (H.M.) and Leah Ollman (L.O.). Compiled by Grace Krilanovich.
The Chimaera of Arezzo A Chimaera fuses the body of a fire-breathing lion with a coiling serpent in place of its tail, so it is capable of guarding the rear flank; for good measure, a horned goat emerges from the lion’s back. Altogether this chomping, hissing, butting flamethrower is a mythological hybrid as frighteningly improbable as something from “Alien.” The minute you see the 2,400-year-old Chimaera of Arezzo, the first time the famous Etruscan sculpture has traveled to the U.S., you’ll know immediately why the magnificent bronze is regarded as a textbook work of art (C.K.). Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. Thu.-Mon., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Tue.-Wed.; ends Feb. 8. (310) 440-7300.
Divine Demons: Wrathful Deities in Buddhist Art When one thinks of Buddhist art, one tends to conjure up images of tranquility and bliss. This show presents a different picture, conjuring up a panoply of teeth-baring, arm-waving, serpent-stomping creatures that are there to step in when celestial composure is not enough (H.M.). Norton Simon Museum of Art, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Mon., Wed.-Thu., Sat.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; Fri., noon-9 p.m.; closed Tue.; ends March 8. (626) 449-6840.
Beloved Daughters: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh Sheikh’s two most recent projects tell of indignity but show only beauty. While most socially concerned photographers advocate for justice by illustrating injustice, Sheikh delivers bitter truths in text but fills his frames with gorgeous portraits and evocative sense impressions. His explorations of the impact of traditional social mores on women in India documents a lifecycle of inequities, but Sheikh never depicts women as victims. The complexity of their fate, as rendered in words, is complemented poignantly by the simple visual evidence of their humanity (L.O.). Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego. Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; ends Today. (619) 238-7559.
Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years This is not just a promotional treasure-house show of about 500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos and installations by more than 200 international artists in MOCA’s remarkable permanent collection. Installed chronologically, it also tells a story -- although one that’s rarely heard. The postwar rise of American art is paired with the simultaneous rise of Los Angeles, from shallow backwater to cultural powerhouse. At the Grand Avenue building, which spans 1939 to 1979, the distinctive emergence of a mature L.A. art is embedded within the larger postwar prominence of the United States, artistically dominated by New York. At the Geffen -- the story picks up in the year MOCA was born. Tying the Geffen start-date to MOCA’s own arrival on the scene audaciously asserts the museum’s instrumental role in the city’s art-life. The two-for-one double-header amply testifies why MOCA matters (C.K.). Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), 250 S. Grand Ave., LA; and Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave., L.A. Mon. and Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thu., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; closed Tue.-Wed.; ends May 3. (213) 626-6222.
Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference Rembrandt is an artist about whom questions of attribution have long been raised. The drawings, rarely signed, can be especially difficult. The show’s aim is to compare his drawings with those of his most important students -- 15 of the roughly 50 he is known to have taught over his four-decade career. They labored hard to mimic his achievement. Sometimes Rembrandt “corrected” their renderings by drawing over their work. In the casual atmosphere of the studio, completed drawings by master and pupils would often be intermingled. And Rembrandt’s own work evolved as years went by, so the standard of visual measurement is always changing. The show, deftly organized to show visitors how distinctions between Rembrandt’s drawings and his pupils’ can be discerned, is a marvelous exercise in and demonstration of connoisseurship (C.K.). Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, L.A. Tue.-Fri. and Sun., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; closed Mon.; ends Feb. 28. (310) 440-7300.
The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Robert Crumb spent nearly five years thinking about and drawing 206 sheets to illuminate the first book of the Old Testament -- chapter by chapter, scene by scene -- inside rectilinear panels whose wavy contours frame events with nervous visual energy. Engaging a master of the profane to tell a sacred story could have proved to be a wincing gimmick, but Crumb’s too good an artist for that. He’s not a believer in the divinity of the Bible’s authorship, and that sense of human origins is conveyed by his distinctive drawing style. The invigorating result is the restoration of historical literary and artistic power to a world-changing narrative (C.K.). Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. Tue.-Wed., Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thu., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Mon.; ends next Sun. (310) 443-7000.
Tara Donovan The artist’s best sculptures employ thousands of ordinary household objects in installations whose structural integrity seems miraculous. Adjusted to respond to the architecture of the space in which they are installed, they establish a perceptual bridge between object and environment. Sometimes, though -- and too often in the traveling survey of 15 installations -- the sculptures seem to be little more than clever, arbitrary accumulations of material. Once grasped, they just sort of sit there. The selection is also odd. The show spans 2001 to ’08, with just one work from each of the first three years and one from ’07. Donovan’s is an uneven accomplishment, although at moments it takes your breath away (C.K.). Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown, 1001 Kettner Blvd., San Diego. Thu.-Tue. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. every third Thursday; closed Wed.; ends Feb. 28. (858) 454-3541.