The 11 best art exhibitions to see in L.A. this fall


Nativism, misogyny, bigotry, racism, homophobia — if following the news these last few years has gotten you down, take heart in the fall art season. There, in Southern California’s art museums, business as usual happily displays a very different America from the one lately grabbing tragic headlines.

The next few months will present eclectic work by a variety of notable painters, sculptors, photographers, videographers and other artists — most of them contemporary. Among them are artists who are immigrants from Ethiopia, Iran and India; women; LGBTQ; French; Latin American and Chicano; African American; and — not least of all — assorted combinations thereof.

For the record:

12:55 p.m. Sept. 16, 2019An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that admission is free for the exhibition “Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again” at the Broad. Prices are $20 for adults, $12 for students, and 17 and under, free.

Cosmopolitanism — the idea of moral community among human beings, regardless of social and political affiliation — is alive and well, in spite of whatever iniquitous sludge might ooze out from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Here are 11 examples, organized in chronological order of their opening dates:


Sept. 21-Jan. 20

“Nineteen Nineteen”

The aftermath of World War I, among the most brutal conflicts in history, provided the distinctive context for Henry and Arabella Huntington’s 1919 decision to transform their lavish San Marino residence into a public charitable institution. The centennial exhibition will assemble some 250 objects to tell the story, including paintings and sculptures in the permanent collection and an assortment of personal ephemera. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. $13-$29; children under 4, free. (626) 405-2100.

Sept. 22-April 5

“Betye Saar: Call and Response”

The relationship between sketchbooks and finished sculptures by the venerable Los Angeles artist is the focus of this career survey. Saar’s peripatetic travels around the city — and around Africa, Mexico, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean — is promised as one cogent theme. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. $10-$25; 17 and under, free. (323) 857-6010.


Sept. 29-Jan. 26

“No Wrong Holes: Thirty Years of Nayland Blake”

Featuring the season’s cheekiest exhibition title, “No Wrong Holes” surveys four decades of sculpture, drawing, performance and video by the New York artist, who worked in Los Angeles and San Francisco during his formative years in the 1980s. Many themes are informed by feminist and queer liberation movements. Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1717 E. 7th St., L.A. Free. (213) 928-0833.

Sept. 29-Jan. 5

“Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence”

As an artist and a teacher, an esteemed combination in Los Angeles’ cultural history, Pittman has had an incalculable influence on art since his emergence in the 1980s. The show, which travels to Europe next year, assembles a full array of his lush, elaborately decorated, often visually raucous paintings on panel and paper — some of mural scale. UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. Free. (310) 443-7000.

Oct. 8-Jan. 12

“Manet and Modern Beauty”

Edouard Manet (1831-1883), arguably the first truly modern artist, had a profound impact during a brief career spanning just two decades. (He died young, at just 51.) Co-organized with the Art Institute of Chicago, where it was seen this summer, the show proposes that in his late work the artist aligned modern art with a vision of “fashionable femininity.” J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, North Sepulveda Boulevard and Getty Center Drive, L.A. Free. (310) 440-7300.

Oct. 19-Feb. 16

“Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again”

Exile and displacement are primary subjects in photographs and videos by the Iranian-born artist. Neshat’s sprawling, 30-year survey will feature nearly 240 works, including two immersive video installations not shown before. The Broad, 221 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. $12, $20; 17 and under, free. (213) 232-6200.

Oct. 19-Feb. 29

“George Rodriguez: Double Vision”

Sometimes, celebrity culture and social justice movements intersect, as in the inseparable merger of music and civil rights activism exemplified by the late Aretha Franklin. Los Angeles photographer George Rodriguez has been at that crossroads, recording everything from the 1970 Chicano Moratorium to late-1980s hip-hop musicians N.W.A. Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park. Free. (323) 265-8841.

Oct. 27-May 11

“With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972–1985”

Returning to its celebrated roots as a venue for groundbreaking historical surveys of contemporary art, the Museum of Contemporary Art has the makings of a possible sleeper-hit. Pattern and Decoration — P&D — has languished in an art-world blind spot, making it ripe for reassessment. “With Pleasure” is the first serious, large-scale study of painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, performance and installation art that arose to challenge traditionally excluded art forms “coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental or craft-based.” Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. $8-$15 (includes same-day admission to the Geffen Contemporary; jurors and children under 12, free; Thursdays after 5 p.m., free. (213) 626-6222.

Nov. 3-May 17

Julie Mehretu

Three dozen largely abstract paintings and 41 works on paper dating from 1996 provide a midcareer survey of the Ethiopian-born Mehretu. Her best works are brilliantly poised between dynamism and chaos, buoyant vitality and catastrophic collapse, fusion and fragmentation. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. $10-$25; 17 and under, free. (323) 857-6010.

Nov. 9-March 15

“Bouguereau and America”

French painter William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) was hugely popular at the turn of the 20th century; but, as the Modernist avant-garde took flight, he soon morphed into a punchline for conservative art. About 40 paintings have been brought together in this traveling show to reexamine why so many American art museums embraced such reactionary work. San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego. $8-$15. (619) 232-7931.

Dec. 8-May 31

“Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World”

Assemblage sculpture gets a dynamic international twist in the work of New York artist Rina Banerjee, born in what is now called Kolkata, India, and raised in London. This traveling show brings together monumental installations, more than two dozen sculptures and a selection of works on paper, most made from materials gathered from far and wide. Fowler Museum, UCLA, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, Westwood. Free. (310) 825-4361.