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Hammer Museum lines up Gaines, Heatherwick, vampires and more

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The Hammer Museum announced on Wednesday exhibition plans for winter and spring that include the first L.A. solo show for Mexican artist Pedro Reyes and the first American show for the London-based Heatherwick architecture studio.

Another first: “Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989,” which comes to the Hammer from the Studio Museum in Harlem, and opens Feb. 7. It represents the first comprehensive survey of the prominent conceptual artist’s work while he lived and taught in Fresno, before he came to Los Angeles.

“It was an incredibly formative period of his career,” said senior curator Anne Ellegood, adding that Gaines’ work explores “how the irrational and unplanned can be embedded” in a structured system.

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“Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio,” which opens Feb. 20, will be the first American exhibition for English designer Thomas Heatherwick and is intended to coincide with the announcement of a major North American project by his studio.

Curator Aram Moshayedi described Heatherwick as a “seminal but under-recognized figure in North America.” He said that all of Heatherwick’s work starts with a specific question that changes with each new project.

For example, when he was working on a bench, he asked: “Can you squeeze a chair out of a machine the way you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube?” (Heatherwick’s answer: “Yes.”)

Other notable programming includes a novel dance project performed by Maria Hassabi from Jan. 31 to March 1. She and four other dancers will take over ancillary parts of the museum through what Moshayedi called “durational choreography.”

“She’s interested in stillness and how the body can inhabit stillness,” Moshayedi said.

These dances will continue all day, every day, for a month.

“It’s an eight-hour dance conceived in the museum, so don’t be shocked if you trip over a body,” Moshayedi said.

Another first for the Hammer is Reyes’ show, which opens Jan. 31. The artist’s work is socially and politically conscious, curator Ellegood said. In that spirit, his show will feature a two-day interactive component called “The People’s United Nation” or “pUN.”

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For pUN, Reyes and the museum will gather people from all over Los Angeles that represent the heritage of each of the member states of the United Nations. Once found, these citizen delegates will participate in games and workshops that Reyes conceived dealing with political, social and environmental issues.

Also coming to the Hammer: the colorful wall paintings of Dutch artist Lily van der Stokker and a show with the self-explanatory title, “Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now.”

“Despite the primitive nature of the technique, it has become important in many contemporary studios,” said curatorial associate Leslie Cozzi of the process of placing paper over an object and rubbing out an image.

Director of public programs Claudia Bestor laid out the museum’s plans for the yearlong series. The first is called “The Next Wave” and deals with pressing water issues around the world, including the global implications of rising sea levels, fracking and coral reef die-off.

The second is called “I Am Armenian” and marks the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide, when Ottoman forces systematically murdered more than 1 million people. (Turkish authorities have long denied any campaign of systematic extermination.)

Rounding out the new programming is a film series called “The Contenders,” which screens notable films from the last year that the Hammer deems to have lasting significance. New York’s Museum of Modern Art is a partner, and MOMA’s chief curator of film, Rajendra Roy, said he most excited about “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” directed by Los Angeles-based Iranian American director Ana Lily Amirpour. Roy described the film as “the best vampire-lesbian-Persian Western of the year.”

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Twitter: @jessicagelt

Corrected: An earlier version of this post misspelled Lily van der Stokker’s last name as van der Sokker.

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