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Datebook: The art of an influential school, video dystopia, the drawings of a Chicano activist

Datebook: The art of an influential school, video dystopia, the drawings of a Chicano activist
A still from Hito Steyerl's video "Factory of the Sun," 2015, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. (Hito Steyerl / Andrew Kreps Gallery)

The art and artists of the highly influential Black Mountain College. A video that explores a dystopian movement farm. And the prolific drawings output of a beloved poet and icon. Plus: The art of Ayotzinapa protests, a show about plans and art that is inspired by outsourcing. Here are six shows to see this week:

Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. A video installation by the German artist takes the viewer into a dystopia where the movements of workers are harvested to create artificial sunshine. The piece, which debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2015, is a mash-up of contemporary communication, told as video game, news report documentary film and Internet video. Opens Sunday and runs through Sept. 12. MOCA Grand Ave., 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles, moca.org.

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"Leap Before You Look" examines the important role of Black Mountain College in American art. Seen here: Elizabeth Schmitt Jennerjahn and Robert Rauschenberg in a performancein the early 1950s.
"Leap Before You Look" examines the important role of Black Mountain College in American art. Seen here: Elizabeth Schmitt Jennerjahn and Robert Rauschenberg in a performancein the early 1950s. (Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center)

"Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957," at the Hammer Museum. Black Mountain College in North Carolina wasn't open very long, not even 20 years. But in its short lifetime it brought together bands of seminal artists, musicians, dancers and thinkers — John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cy Twomby, Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg and countless others — as both teachers and students. Key to that dynamism was the presence of Josef and Anni Albers, a pair of Bauhaus artists who fled Germany to join Black Mountain in the late 1930s. This critically acclaimed exhibition, which first opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, shows the far-reaching effects a single institution can have. Opens Sunday and runs through May 15. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, hammer.ucla.edu.

José Montoya, "Abundant Harvest: Works on Paper / Works on Life," at the Fowler Museum. Throughout his life, activist, poet and painter Jose Montoya drew — on whatever was at hand: napkins, hotel stationery and notebooks. And in those drawings he recorded the quotidian aspects of Mexican American life in the United States: dogs and children, women and sailors, pachucos and pachucas, the architecture of low-lying Central Valley neighborhoods, industrial warehouses and agricultural settings, as well as the glamorous profile of lowrider cars. It is the first comprehensive look at this vital Chicano artist's drawing practice. Opens Sunday and runs through July 17. UCLA, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, Westwood,  fowler.ucla.edu.

"PLAN," at the El Segundo Museum of Art. An exhibition organized by the Wende Museum and the El Segundo Museum of Art brings together works by disparate figures — from Camille Pissarro to Egon Schiele to Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid — exploring the idea of plans and planning. This includes references to five-year plans, a map for the projected Soviet invasion of West Berlin and other works that play with the idea of fate versus meticulous intention. Opens Sunday and runs through May 22. 208 Main St., El Segundo, esmoa.org.

"Ayotzinapa: A Roar of Silence," at the Durón Gallery at SPARC. The disappearance of 43 students from a rural teacher's college in the Mexican state of Guerrero in the fall of 2014 led to protests and outrage over impunity and violence all over Mexico. Artist Francisco Toledo used it as a call to action, getting artists from all over the world to submit graphic works that dealt with their disappearances. Now these incredible posters go on view in Los Angeles thanks to a collaboration between SPARC. the Center for the Study of Political Graphics and Self Help Graphics & Art. Opens today at 5 p.m. and runs through March 27. 685 Venice Blvd., Venice, sparcinla.org.

"Outsource Show," at werkärtz. In a show that toys with ideas of conceptual art as much as it does with globalism and outsourcing, curator Alexander Tarrant got 17 nonpainter artists to submit proposals for paintings that he then had executed in the arts production center of Dafen, China. Paintings in this show are considered "floor models." Any time a painting sells, another is created in Dafen to replace it. In other words, art as the ultimate global commodity. Opens Feb. 24 and runs through March 23. 927 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, outsourceshow.com.

FINAL WEEK

Edmund de Waal, "Ten Thousand Things," at Gagosian Gallery. Both an artist and an acclaimed novelist, De Waal is a figure whose passion for words feeds his art and vice versa. His first solo exhibition in L.A. features arrangements of objects — including the ceramics he makes — inspired by music, poetry and the architecture of Rudolph Schindler. Through today. 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, gagosian.com.

Sadie Barnette, "Superfecta," at Charlie James Gallery. In a series of multimedia works — from photography to meticulously rendered drawings — the artist looks at the culture of horse racing, touching on issues of fantasy, escapism and chance. Through Saturday. 969 Chung King Road, Chinatown,  cjamesgallery.com.

George Porcari, "Greetings From LA: 24 Frames and 50 Years," at Haphazard. Since the '60s, artist George Porcari has been photographing Los Angeles — from the street to the beach. In this exhibition, he uses those images to make large-scale photo collages set around a blank space — or void — that shapes the tone of the images above and below. Through Saturday. 1542 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, haphazard.co.

Marcia Hafif, "Glaze Paintings and Works on Paper From the 1970s," at Marc Selwyn Fine Art. Throughout her career, Hafif has been obsessed with color: the colors of the Pacific Ocean or Roman architecture — hues that she reproduces in paintings and installations that serve as meditations on the subtleties of tone. In her first solo show at Selwyn, the artist is showing some of the early works — graphite drawings and glaze paintings — that helped shape her practice. Through Saturday. 9953 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, marcselwynfineart.com.

"Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows" at the Getty Center. Showcasing several bodies of work by the Japanese photographer, this exhibition includes her moving images of objects and clothing that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Each image captures deeply personal details such as patches, mends and stains, all evidence of the full lives once inhabited by these garments. Also on view will be a small exhibition of contemporary Japanese photographers. Through Sunday. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.

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"Punk Povera," at Wuho Gallery. This group exhibition gathers painting, drawing and sculpture from L.A. and Mexico City inspired by a pair of cultural movements: Arte Povera, the Italian art movement that focused on the use of simple materials, and punk, the musical and fashion movement that favored grit over excess. Through Sunday. 6518 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, wuho.architecture.woodbury.edu.

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"The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams," at the Skirball Cultural Center. Adams' powerful black-and-white images from Manzanar during World War II protested what he described as the "enforced exodus" of American citizens: Japanese Americans who were forcefully detained for the course of the war. It's a stirring view of daily life during one of America's darker episodes. Through Sunday. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.

Diana Thater, "The Sympathetic Imagination," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Los Angeles-based video artist is widely known for groundbreaking video installations that incorporate the architecture of a space while exploring a range of natural phenomena: from the underwater lives of dolphins to the ways in which bees communicate. For the show at LACMA, she is showing works shot in Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, France, and at the Galtaji Temple in Jaipur, India. Through Sunday. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Mid-Wilshire, lacma.org.

"Noah Davis: Imitation of Wealth" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Grand Avenue. In 2013, Davis re-created a series of works by famous artists and put them on display at the Underground Museum, his alternative art space in Arlington Heights. The idea was to display works of high cultural value in an unlikely setting. Now, the Museum of Contemporary Art has re-created the installation — a work made more poignant by the artist's recent death. (The piece is viewable free of charge through the windows of a storefront space adjacent to the museum.) Through Monday. 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown, moca.org.

ONGOING EXHIBITIONS

John Outterbridge, "Rag Man," at Art + Practice. The renowned Los Angeles assemblage artist is showing works produced mainly over the last decade and a half from scavenged materials such as twigs, bones and hair. Works from the recent series "Rag and Bone Idiom" evoke talismans and healing rituals. Through Feb. 27. 4339 Leimert Blvd., Leimert Park, artandpractice.org.

Marianne Vitale, at Venus. A sculptor known for her weighty pieces is having her West Coast debut show with a pair of installations that will feature 60 tons of steel railroad track and a series of nearly 100 11-foot white pine timbers. Through Feb. 27. 601 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, venusovermanhattan.com.

Martine Syms, "Black Box," at Human Resources Los Angeles. An exhibition of 60 new short videos by the Los Angeles artist explores ideas about the rules of personal comportment, with each set up as a 30-second "lesson." It's a busy month for the artist, who recently performed at the Broad and is set to participate in the Hammer Museum's 2016 Made in L.A. Biennial. Through Feb. 27. 410 Cottage Home St., Chinatown, Los Angeles, humanresourcesla.com.

"R. Luke DuBois: Now" and "Sandow Birk: American Qur'an," at the Orange County Museum of Art. OCMA opens a pair of new shows: one by the New York-based DuBois, an artist who often employs data to create unique visualizations, and the L.A.-based Birk, who has spent nine years transcribing and illustrating every verse of the Koran in a uniquely American way. Through Feb. 28. 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, ocma.net.

John K., "Women," at Farago. Little is known about the North Dakota-born, L.A.-based photographer who for years took erotically-charged photos, transparencies and 8mm films of women — both clothed and nude. These go well beyond the average nudie picture taken by some hobbyist. The artist (whose surname was Kayser) had an inspired eye when it came to tone and light, not to mention composition. Through March 5. 224 W. Eighth St., downtown Los Angeles, farrago.xyz.

"Mark Dutcher: The Time Machine" at Jason Vass. This new downtown art gallery is kicking off with a show of works by the L.A. abstractionist. The exhibition will feature his "Time Machine" series as well a painting inspired by the poetry of American wordsmith Hart Crane. Through March 5. 1452 E. Sixth St., downtown Los Angeles, jasonvass.com.

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"Rain Room," at the L.A. County Museum of Art. It was universally panned by the critics when it appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (New York Magazine critic Jerry Saltz described it as "the worst single work of art that I saw all this year ... a high-tech amusement-park ride.") And my colleague Christopher Knight labeled it "brainless amusement" in his review of the experience. But who cares when you can take the world's most awesome selfie inside it and share it with the world on Instagram? Through March 6. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, lacma.org.

"Derek Fordjour: Eight Paintings" and "Yashua Klos: How to Hide in the Wind," at Papillion. A pair of new shows at Papillion explore the black figure in unique ways. In a series of new paintings, Fordjour places arrangements of figures against patterned and other carnivalesque backgrounds. Klos, in the meantime, creates elaborate collages that find ways of integrating faces and heads into architectonic elements that appear to float in space. Through March 6. 4336 Degnan Blvd., Leimert Park, Los Angeles, papillionart.com.

Morgan MacLean, "Massing the Void," at the Landing. Raised among a community of boat-builders in Massachusetts, MacLean's sculptural pieces take their cue from the fine craftsmanship of traditional wood sailing vessels. In this series, which spans seven pieces and three years, he used a crushed cardboard box as a point of inspiration to make a series of abstracted sculptures that are as much about form as they are about space. Through March 12. 5118 W. Jefferson Blvd., West Adams, Los Angeles, thelandinggallery.com.

"Dansaekhwa and Minimalism," at Blum & Poe. A survey of some 35 works pairs pieces by key American minimalists (Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin) with important works from Korea's Dansaekhwa movement, whose artists (figures such as Lee Ufan and Kwon Young-woo) were renowned for creating monochrome works in imaginative and textural ways. A truly meditative show. Through March 12. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, blumandpoe.com.

"Ron Jude: Lago," at Gallery Luisotti. In his fourth solo show at the gallery, Jude explores the landscape of the Salton Sea, the famously polluted body of water, near which the photographer spent some of the formative years of his childhood. Through March 12. Bergamot Station, 2525 S. Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, galleryluisotti.com.

"Disguise: Masks and Global African Art," at the Fowler Museum. This exhibition looks at the art of disguise through the work of a dozen contemporary African and African American artists — touching on everything from elaborate masks to the illusionist camouflage of the digital sphere. Expect to see work by artists such as Zina Saro-Wiwa, Jacolby Satterwhite and Brendan Fernandes. Through March 13. UCLA, north campus, Westwood, fowler.ucla.edu.

"Siren" at Five Car Garage. A group show of 10 artists who hail primarily from the Los Angeles area looks at works that employ or reference sound. This includes works of video and a pair of "sound baths" that provide sound healing. (The sound baths require advance RSVP and an admission of $30.) Five Car Garage is located in the garage of a private home; address and other details are provided with an RSVP. Through March 18. Santa Monica, emmagrayhq.com.

Joshua Abelow, "Moving Pictures," at Tif Sigfrids. A show of paintings by the New York-based artist revels in crude form-making: stick figures, witch figures and abstracted, colorful forms. The series emerged out of a period the artist spent in rural Maryland. Through March. 19. 1507 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood, tifsigfrids.com.

"... Loss, Desire, Pleasure," at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC. For four years, the Los Angeles nightclub known by a word that can't be printed in this newspaper, served as rejoinder to the clean cut-world of West Hollywood gay bars — a gritty setting where dance, performance and activism were blurred into a single act, and where the human body served as statement and canvas, displaying piercings, tattoos and all kinds of other bod-mods. This exhibition tracks the club's historical legacy and connects it with contemporary artistic practices. Note: the related link contains NSFW images. Through March 19. 909 W. Adams Blvd., University Park, Los Angeles, one.usc.edu.

"Frank Gehry," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Featuring more than 200 drawings and 65 models, as well as countless photographs and video, this retrospective looks at the life and career of one of L.A.'s most celebrated architects. Totally worth it just to see the original design for downtown's Disney Hall. (Glad they went for the option that was built.) Through March 20. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, lacma.org.

Christian Eckart, "post-post," at Wilding Cran. The Canadian-born, Houston-based artist's first solo show in Los Angeles features a series of new abstract paintings as well as a curious sculpture titled "The Absurd Vehicle," a seemingly enticing objet whose many wheels and impractical body look as if they would simply send a rider scurrying in circles. Through March 26. 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, wildingcran.com.

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Evan Holloway at David Kordanksy Gallery. Holloway, a Los Angeles artist, is known for making curious arrangements out of seemingly simple materials: Geometric pieces of tree branches turn out to be cast bronze, while spherical shapes studded with spent batteries nod to spiky Nkondi nail fetish sculpture. Through Mar. 26. 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Mid-City, Los Angeles, davidkordanksygallery.com.

"Erwin Wurm: One-Minute Sculptures" at the MAK Center. The Austrian sculptor brings a wry approach to the form with pieces that can only be completed by the viewer — which means standing on a pedestal with a pink plush doll on your head or sitting inside a white plinth turned on its side. It's all a tribute to the absurd nature of the monuments men make to themselves. Go with friends for maximum enjoyment. Through March 27. Schindler House, 835 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, makcenter.org.

"In Focus: Daguerreotypes," at the Getty Museum. A selection of some of the museum's 2,000 daguerreotypes go on view alongside daguerreotypes from the collection of singer-songwriter Graham Nash, a prominent collector of this early type of photography. Through March 30. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, getty.edu.

"Reveal the Rats," at the Pit. A group show featuring work by Anna Betbeze, Rebecca Morris, Sterling Ruby, Lara Schnitger and Despina Stokou explores the idea of rat as architect, a creature that is constantly remaking its environment. The artists in the show do much the same: deconstructing and reconstructing ideas and objects in their work, which includes collage, quilting, textiles and painting. Through March 31. 918 Ruberta Ave., Glendale, the-pit.la.

"Robert Cremean: The Beds of Procrustes" and "The Seven Deadly Sins," at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The California artist is known for cool, diagrammatic pieces that employ the human figure in ways that riff on bigger questions of art, myth, faith and sacrifice. For his show in Pasadena, one installation examines the legend of Procrustes, the Greek mythological bandit who would torture people in various ways in order to force them to fit onto an iron bed, while another uses human figures to interpret each of the deadly sins. Through April 3. 490 E. Union St., Pasadena, pmcaonline.org.

Lita Albuquerque, "20/20: Accelerando," at the USC Fisher Museum of Art. In an exhibition that melds film, sound and performance, Albuquerque tells the story of a 25th century female astronaut who lands on Earth in the year 6,000 BC. The piece is drawn from a text that Albuquerque has been working on since 2003, re-imagined in the museum as an impressionistic environment that, among other things, features original music by film and theater composer Robbie C. Williamson. Through April 10. 823 W. Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park, Los Angeles, fisher.usc.edu.

"Rebecca Campbell and Samantha Fields: Dreams of Another Time" at the University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach. A two-person show looks at the works of two important Los Angeles-based artists: Campbell, known for her meticulous portraits composed out of broad lines, and Fields, who uses old-fashioned paint to create the sensations of digital blurring. In the permanent collection galleries, the museum will also be displaying a number of prints by renowned painter Wayne Thiebaud. Through April 10. CSULB, 1250 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, web.csulb.edu/uam.

"Skin," at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery. The work of three dozen contemporary artists — including figures such as Kara Walker, April Bey and Ken Gonzales-Day — examines issues related to race and identity in this new group show. Through April 17. There will be a related "Un-panel Conversation" on the subject held on  Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, lamag.org.  

"Hard Edged: Geometrical Abstraction and Beyond," at the California African American Museum. A new exhibition features the work of 46 artists — from emerging figures to well-established names — working in the arena of geometric abstraction. This includes works by fresh voices and standard-bearers, including well-known figures such as Rashid Johnson, Senga Nengudi, David Hammons and Tim Washington. Through April 24. 600 State Drive, Exposition Park, caamuseum.org.

Alice Könitz, "Los Angeles Museum of Art (LAMOA)," at Occidental College. This is a work of sculpture that also serves as a micro exhibition hall. The space was established in Könitz's backyard in 2012 but will be on view at Occidental College for the course of the academic year. The inaugural exhibition features work by L.A. artist Alice Clements. Through spring 2016. In front of Weingart Hall at Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Eagle Rock, oxy.edu.

"Catherine Opie: 700 Nimes Road" at MOCA Pacific Design Center. For six months in 2011, Los Angeles photographer Catherine Opie documented the Bel-Air estate of Elizabeth Taylor — the clothes, the photographs, the jewelry, the little bits of personal ephemera that make a house a home. Now she is showing the series, one that chronicles a life of wealth and fame, at the Museum of Contemporary Art's West Hollywood space. Through May 8. Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, moca.org.

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"Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th Century French Drawings and Prints," at the Getty Museum. Figures in deep penumbra and sprightly creatures in dim settings. In the middle of Europe's industrial revolution, some artists became intrigued by the non-color of the color black, creating prints and charcoal drawings that evoked the nocturnal, the dark and the deep recesses of the cosmos — not to mention the not-quite-real state of dreaming. Through May 15. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.

"Popol Vuh: Watercolors of Diego Rivera," at the Bowers Museum. The "Popol Vuh" is a nearly 500-year-old Mayan text, written in Quiché, that recounts that culture's creation myths. This sacred text inspired a series of watercolors by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, an artist who was preoccupied with indigenous themes. Now 17 of these paintings, on loan from a museum in Mexico, are on view at the Bowers. Through May 29. 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, bowers.org.

Alex Israel, at the Huntington. In 2012, the San Marino library and museum unveiled the first of its contemporary interventions with low-key works by Ricky Swallow and Lesley Vance. Now the museum is getting bolder, with a series of installations by painter Alex Israel, whose pop-inspired canvases and objects touch on topics such as celebrity, glamour and power. Through July 11. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, huntington.org.

"Sam Maloof Woodworker: Life/Art/Legacy," at the Maloof Foundation. The foundation is celebrating the centennial of the birth of the renowned Southern California woodworker, whose elegant objects and furnishings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the L.A. County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. The exhibition will feature more than 60 objects from throughout the artist's life, including furnishings, drawings, photographs and other ephemera. The show is part of a year's worth of events that will celebrate Maloof's life and work. Through Aug. 27. 5131 Carnelian St., Alta Loma, malooffoundation.org.

"Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. For one of its long-term installations, the museum has gathered works of video or film by contemporary African artists that explore the body and the looping nature of time. This includes pieces by figures such as Yinka Shonibare, Sammy Baloji, Berni Searle, Moatax Nasr and Theo Eshetu. Through Jan. 2, 2017. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, lacma.org.

"Islamic Art Now" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Contemporary works from LACMA's permanent collection by 20 artists who live in or have roots in the Middle East look at questions of society, gender and identity. Runs indefinitely. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, lacma.org.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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