21 things our arts critics can’t wait to do, see and listen to this fall in California

A side by side image of a woman and a man.
Opera singer Julia Bullock and playwright Matthew Lopez.
(Photographs by Francine Orr, Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times. Lettering by Angela Southern/For The Times)

In Southern California, the balmy summer doldrums tend to give way to a packed slate of cool arts and cultural happenings. This autumn’s no exception. Decades-long retrospectives from contemporary artists and never-before-seen works live alongside genre-bending local theatrical premieres, inventive operas and exciting classical events. Though far from exhaustive, we’ve compiled a list of 21 shows our critics can’t wait to go out and see this fall.

Visual Arts

An oil piece on linen.
Tala Madani, “Blackboard (Further Education),” 2021, oil on linen, 60 x 120 x 1 1/4 in. (152.4 x 304.8 x 3.2 cm).
(elon schoenholz/YDC)

“Tala Madani: Biscuits.” Museum of Contemporary Art, Sept. 10 through Feb. 19

Paintings and animations by the Iranian-born Los Angeles artist engage burlesque humor to indict serious social and cultural inequities. A 15-year survey considers an artist whose witty lacerations of power relations are as comfortable taking on motherhood as they are the degradations of corporate culture. — Christopher Knight

A horizontal painting shows figures — some nude, some wrapped in simple cloths — carrying jars along a shore.
Kim Whanki, “Jars and Women,” 1951. From the exhibition “The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from Sept. 11 through Feb. 19, 2023.
(Private collection / Whanki Museum)

“The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sept. 11 through Feb. 19

The early 20th century marked a period of tremendous upheaval in Korea. In 1910, after the centuries-old Joseon Dynasty had crumbled, the country was colonized by Japan. Liberation came in 1945, but it was soon followed by the Korean War, which left the peninsula divided. Like politics, culture was in a wild state of flux. Modernism seeped into the country through Japanese and, later, U.S. influences. Photography revolutionized portraiture and painters embraced Western styles. The show, organized with Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is bringing more than 130 works to L.A. that have never been shown outside of Korea. — Carolina A. Miranda

Fall arts and entertainment picks from music, books, TV, arts and movies.

Aug. 30, 2022

A mixed-media collage on view.
Alexis Smith, “The American Way,” 1980 mixed-media collage 16 x 52 in. (40.6 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Margo Leavin and Wendy Brandow in memory of Jim DeSilva.
(Pablo Mason)

“Alexis Smith: The American Way.” Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Sept. 15 through Jan. 29


In witty and incisive collages ranging from single sheets of paper to room-size environments, L.A.’s Alexis Smith, 73, emerged into national prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A profound meditation on the distinctive absurdities of modern American life, shaped by the unprecedented eruption of mass culture, Smith’s art is the subject of a much-anticipated retrospective, her first large survey in 30 years. — Christopher Knight

A beautifully installed survey, on view through Dec. 7 in Boyle Heights. tracks Alexis Smith from 1973 to 2016.

Nov. 12, 2019

“Rebecca Morris: 2001-2022.” Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Oct. 1 through Jan. 15

Abstraction, figuration, gesture, geometry, pattern Rebecca Morris wields all those elements in her large-scale canvases, but abstraction is first among equals. In a period when working representationally tends to dominate painting, the Los Angeles-based artist chooses otherwise. No reactionary, neither is Morris being ironic. Thirty paintings are planned for the show. — Christopher Knight

An oil painting on canvas depicts a family.
Bob Thompson, “LeRoi Jones and His Family,” 1964. Oil on canvas. 36 3/8 × 48 1/2 in. (92.4 × 123.2 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966. © Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York.
(Cathy Carver/Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

“Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine.” UCLA Hammer Museum, Oct. 11 through Jan. 8

When painter Bob Thompson died in Rome in 1966 of complications following gall bladder surgery, he was a month shy of his 29th birthday. His career had been on a meteoric rise, and he’d gone there to study Renaissance painting. American art lost one of its most promising young artists. Thompson has been a virtual cult figure ever since, and this traveling exhibition will survey his visceral, vividly colored figurative canvases. — Christopher Knight

In a black and white image, Joan Didion is scene obscuring her face in her black turtleneck
Brigitte Lacombe, “Joan Didion, New York,” 1996. 16 x 20 in. From the exhibition “Joan Didion: What She Means,” on view at the Hammer Museum from Oct. 11 to Jan. 22, 2023. Organized by Hilton Als in collaboration with Connie Butler, chief curator, and Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, curatorial assistant.

(Brigitte Lacombe / Lacombe Inc.)

“Joan Didion: What She Means.” UCLA Hammer Museum, Oct. 11 through Jan. 22

You may imagine that a show devoted to a writer would consist of vitrines stuffed with marked-up manuscripts and testy letters to publishers. But this exhibition, organized by Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist Hilton Als in collaboration with Hammer curatorial team Connie Butler and Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, is going a more poetic route. Yes, there will be ephemera linked to the celebrated California-born essayist, who died late last year. But it will also include plenty of art — works by figures such as Betye Saar, Ana Mendieta and Ed Ruscha — that will be used to articulate the evolution of Didion’s life and voice. — Carolina A. Miranda

A scanned page of the Códice Maya shows a drawing of a Mayan death deity about to execute a kneeling figure.
A page from the Códice Maya de México. It will go on view at the Getty Center Oct. 18 to Jan. 15, 2023. The exhibition marks only the third time this rare pre-colonial codex, painted by a single artist and thought to be the oldest surviving book in the Americas, has ever gone on view.
(Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia/INAH-México)

“Códice Maya de México.” Getty Center, Oct. 18 through Jan. 15

In the ‘60s, a precolonial Mayan codex, looted from some unknown locale in southwestern Mexico, materialized in a private collection in Mexico City. For decades, its veracity lay in question — until its authenticity was verified by international teams of archaeologists. Created about 900 years ago by a single artist (it is thought to be the oldest surviving book in the Americas), the Códice Maya de México, as it is known, records the 584-day journey of the planet Venus as it shifts from morning to evening star. The show at the Getty marks only the third time ever the codex will go on public display. — Carolina A. Miranda

An abstract painting of a woman with a book.
“Woman With a Book,” 1932. Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). Oil on canvas, 51-3/8 x 38-1/2 in. (130.5 x 97.8 cm), The Norton Simon Foundation.
(© 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

“Picasso Ingres: Face to Face.” Norton Simon Museum of Art, Oct. 21 through Jan. 30

Just two paintings are in this show, but given a) how great each one is, b) how one was born of the other, and c) how the two have never been seen together before, this is an unmissable event. Pablo Picasso, ever bawdy, transforms Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ chaste bourgeois matron “Mme. Moitissier” (1856) into “Woman With a Book” (1932), an overtly sexualized portrait of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. — Christopher Knight

A vertical painting shows a Black man in profile wearing kingly robes against a golden background
Henry Taylor, “Untitled,” 2021, acrylic on linen. (182.6 x 137.5 x 3.2 cm). The painting will appear in the artist’s solo show, “Henry Taylor: B Side,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Nov. 6 through April 30, 2023.
(Henry Taylor / Jeff McLane, Hauser & Wirth)

“Henry Taylor: B Side.” Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Nov. 6 through April 30

It’s been a minute since this prolific Los Angeles painter had a major outing in his hometown. His last solo gallery show was in 2016: a startling installation at Blum & Poe that featured, in one room, portraits of people in comfortable repose hung around a floor sculpture that resembled a pool; in the other, faces peering out around an abandoned lot. It was a study of the separate and unequal ways in which space is divided. Taylor is renowned as a painter of people, but he is also at home working in sculpture and installation — a creator of worlds who is also their perceptive chronicler. “B Side” at MOCA will be the most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date. — Carolina A. Miranda

A painting shows a woman in checkered pants and shirt sitting before a bay whose waters are a deep purple
Joan Brown, “The Night Before the Alcatraz Swim,” 1975. From the exhibition “Joan Brown,” scheduled to go on view at SFMOMA from Nov. 19 to March 12, 2023.
(Michael Tropea / Estate of Joan Brown / GUC Collection)

Joan Brown. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nov. 19 through March 12

In a Joan Brown painting, a cat might sit pensively in the middle of a Kool-Aid-colored landscape and a woman with the body of a tiger might take the pose of an Ingres odalisque. Even when the action in her paintings is ordinary — say, a small child with loose trousers reaching for something on a counter — Brown’s use of brilliant color and pattern is not. In her work, you’ll find humor but also expressions of melancholy. SFMOMA’s show marks the first retrospective devoted to the Bay Area painter in more than 20 years, capturing the full scope of her production. — Carolina A. Miranda


Two actors perform onstage.
Alex Barlas and Pamela J. Gray performing in “Ghosts.”
(Josh La Cour/Josh La Cour)

“Ghosts.” Odyssey Theatre. Sept. 10 through Oct. 23

On the surface, Henrik Ibsen’s 19th century classic roots out a family’s darkest secrets. But dig a little deeper and the play reveals a society in transition new moralities wrestling with moribund conventions that refuse to die. Count on director Bart DeLorenzo to draw out the contemporary parallels through the adventurous contemporaneity of his staging. — Charles McNulty

Two actors dance onstage.
Barbara Walsh and Patrick Clanton in the national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” playing at Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre from Sept. 13 through Oct. 16.
(Matthew Murphy; Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade)

“Oklahoma!” Ahmanson Theatre, Sept. 13 through Oct. 16

Warning: This is not your grandparents’ “Oklahoma!” But the theatrically savvy of any age will be enthralled by Daniel Fish’s brooding, Tony-winning deconstruction of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical. This stripped-down revival offers a starker reflection on an American story that is more menacing and disturbing than you might recall. If you never thought “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” could provoke disturbing chills, wait till you experience the company’s reprise. — Charles McNulty

The premier theater centered on deaf culture has plans for a ‘CODA’ musical and ‘Encanto’ videos. But first: ‘Oedipus’ at the Getty Villa, coming this fall.

Aug. 26, 2022

A woman gazes out from a ledge.
Martyna Majok, the playwright behind “Sanctuary City.”
(From Martyna Majok)

“Sanctuary City.” Pasadena Playhouse, Sept. 18 through Oct. 9

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok (“Cost of Living”) offers an intimate look at the plight of undocumented immigrants. Set in Newark, N.J., a so-called “sanctuary city,” the drama takes an unflinching look at the vulnerabilities of those struggling to survive in the shadow of citizenship. — Charles McNulty

A man poses for the camera.
The playwright Matthew López.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

“The Inheritance.” Geffen Playhouse, Oct. 1 through Nov. 27

If E.M. Forster’s “Howards End” and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” had a child, it would no doubt resemble Matthew López’s “The Inheritance.” This two-part Tony-winning epic, tracing the generational struggles and resilient strength of gay men, has its West Coast premiere in a Geffen Playhouse production directed by Mike Donahue, who brought López’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” vibrantly to life at the same theater in 2017. — Charles McNulty

Broadway is buzzing over a 6 1/2-hour tale of gay men connecting across generations. Playwright Matthew Lopez talks about trailblazers, starting with E.M. Forster.

Nov. 8, 2019

Two actors photographed together.
Christian Telesmar and Sydney A. Mason in “Radio Golf.”
(Daniel Reichert)

“Radio Golf.” A Noise Within, Oct. 22 through Nov. 13

Last season Gregg T. Daniel directed “Gem of the Ocean,” the first play in August Wilson’s decade-by-decade examination of 20th century Black life in America. This season he leaps over time to the last play of the 10-play cycle, “Radio Golf,” set in 1990s and focused on issues of money, politics and integrity that have only grown more urgent. — Charles McNulty

A woman looks at the camera.
Playwright Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s” plays Nov. 15 through Dec. 18 at the Mark Taper Forum as part of the 2022-2023 season.
(From Lynn Savarese)

“Clyde’s.” Mark Taper Forum, Nov. 19 through Dec. 18

A comedy by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Lynn Nottage (“Ruined,” “Sweat”) is never just a comedy. And the sharp hilarity of “Clyde’s,” which takes place in a truck-stop sandwich shop staffed with ex-cons and presided over by a diabolic proprietress, delves into the redemptive possibilities of work in a society that only begrudgingly doles out second chances. — Charles McNulty

Classical Music

Amina Edris
The soprano Amina Edris will be taking on the role of Cleopatra in the opera “Antony and Cleopatra.”
(Capucine de Chocqueuse)

John Adams’ “Antony and Cleopatra.” San Francisco Opera, Sept. 10, with dates through Oct. 5

Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” which opened the Metropolitan Opera House in 1966, is known for being one of the greatest flops in American opera. Now, 35 years after one of the great triumphs in American opera, the premiere of John Adams’ “Nixon in China,” Adams may well show how to turn Shakespeare’s classic into opera. The cast stars Canadian baritone Gerald Finley (Robert Oppenheimer in Adams’ “Doctor Atomic”) and Egyptian soprano Amina Edris replaces Julia Bullock, who had to cancel given the birth of her first child. The staging by Elkhanah Pulitzer makes this Adams’ first music theater work not directed by Peter Sellars. — Mark Swed

A seated man poses with a cello.
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason
(Jake Turney)

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Oct. 12

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who rose to international stardom during her five seasons as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, brings the British orchestra to Walt Disney Concert Hall, where she had earlier served as assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The tour with cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, as soloist, begins two days earlier with concerts in Santa Barbara and Costa Mesa, which will feature Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto and a work by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose revival Gražinytė-Tyla has helped spearhead. In L.A., Kanneh-Mason plays Haydn and Gražinytė-Tyla leads the West Coast premiere of Thomas Adès’ “The Exterminating Angel” Symphony. — Mark Swed

A conductor holds a baton and poses for the camera.
The conductor Vinay Parameswaran.
(From Pasadena Symphony and Pops)

Pasadena Symphony. Dates beginning Oct. 22

In its pursuit of a new music director, the Pasadena Symphony is auditioning, over its six programs this season, six emerging BIPOC conductors (two are women), any one of whom will significantly change the profile of the orchestra. Each concert also features a recent work by a notable BIPOC and/or woman composer and the same mostly goes for the soloists. The season begins with Indian American conductor Vinay Parameswaran, Black pianist Terrence Wilson and Zimbabwean Japanese Angeleno composer Nokuthula Endo Ngwenyama. There is no conductor search anywhere quite like this. — Mark Swed

A woman sings onstage.
Singer Julia Bullock performs music by Black composers conducted by Thomas Wilkins with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Sept. 2, 2021, at the Hollywood Bowl.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Rock My Soul Festival. Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nov. 5 through 12.

Julia Bullock will be curating “Rock My Soul,” an L.A. Phil festival celebrating collaborations between Black women artists. The series is inspired by Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, two Black composers who bonded in the 1930s and are beginning to gain belated recognition. The festival ends with a guest appearance by Rhiannon Giddens, who will be in town for the West Coast premiere by Los Angeles Opera of her new opera, “Omar,” which promises to be the highlight of the company’s fall season. — Mark Swed

A man conducts a choir.
Grant Gershon, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
(Jamie Pham)

Music to Accompany a Departure. Los Angeles Master Chorale, Nov. 20

As a follow-up to the director’s extraordinarily moving “Lagrime” with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, director Peter Sellars has used the pandemic to further consider how we illuminate our own existence by profoundly contemplating the end of things. This time it will be with the German Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz’s funeral homage, “Musikalische Exequien,” utilizing two-dozen singers conducted by Grant Gershon. The following month, Sellars will also return to the Disney stage, directing the revival of the L.A. Phil‘s “Tristan Project,” Wagner’s opera performed with video by Bill Viola and this time conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. — Mark Swed