It is the official beginning of the arts season and Los Angeles is awash in exhibitions — from a Frank Gehry retrospective to the latest epic video by Matthew Barney to a show of Japanese ceramics curated by Takashi Murakami. Plus: a fine art film festival, African spirits reconceived, and an L.A.-born painter's early perceptual works. Lots of hot stuff going on. Pray that everyone's air conditioning is working…
Matthew Barney, "River of Fundament," at the Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the art world's biggest darlings is getting his first solo museum show in Los Angeles. Barney is a video and performance artist known for producing lush works inspired by fantastical mythologies. His latest (which includes an epic six-hour film) reimagines the birth and death cycles of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or at least Norman Mailer's take on the Egyptian Book of the Dead). Should be decadent. Opens Sunday and runs through Jan. 18. The Geffen Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave., downtown Los Angeles, moca.org.
Matthew Barney, "Water Castings: Fourteen Pieces," at Regen Projects Hollywood. And, because too much Barney is never enough, Regen is showing a number of related "River of Fundament" sculptures crafted from bronze. Opens Friday at 6 p.m. and runs through Oct. 24. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, regenprojects.com.
"Frank Gehry," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Featuring more than 200 drawings, 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.) Opens Sunday and runs through March 20. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"The Avant-Garde Won't Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy," at Blum & Poe. A two-part exhibition taking place at Blum & Poe's New York and Los Angeles spaces looks at the legacy of the European postwar movement with roots in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. The L.A. portion will look at the movement's influence by integrating historical work from the '50s and '60s with a range of contemporary works. Through Oct. 17 in New York, 1966 E. 66th St., Manhattan. Opens Nov. 7 in Los Angeles, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, blumandpoe.com.
For the record, 1 p.m. Sept. 11: An earlier version of this post implied that the two-part exhibition at Blum & Poe would be open simultaneously in the gallery's New York and Los Angeles spaces this week. The L.A. portion doesn't open until Nov. 7.
"Kazunori Hamana, Yuji Ueda, Otani Workshop," at Blum & Poe. Also at the Culver City gallery is a show of Japanese ceramics organized by Takashi Murakami. Opens Friday at 6 p.m. and runs through Oct. 24. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, blumandpoe.com.
"Njideka Akunyili Crosby: The Beautyful Ones," at Art + Practice. Bright collages crafted from old family snapshots and the pages of Nigerian lifestyle magazines depict intimate domestic scenes — often the artist and her husband. It's the first show in L.A. for the Nigerian-born artist, whose exhibition is being done in partnership with the Hammer Museum. Also on view will be two films by Akosua Adoma Owusu. Opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 21. 4339 Leimert Blvd., Leimert Park, Los Angeles, artandpractice.org.
Lisa Adams, "America the Beautiful," at CB1 Gallery. The L.A. painter is known for abstracting elements of the urban and the natural into surreal landscapes that seem to capture the city's forgotten corners. At CB1, she casts her eye on the natural, social and political issues facing our country. Opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 31. 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown Los Angeles, cb1gallery.com.
Glenn Ligon, "Live," at Regen Projects West Hollywood. A seven-screen video installation explores the body language of comedian Richard Pryor — all from a 1982 routine in which the comedian was at the height of his powers. Opens today and runs through Oct. 10. 633 N. Almont Drive, West Hollywood, regenprojects.com.
Ricky Swallow, "/SKEWS/," at David Kordanksy Gallery. Swallow is known for cast-bronze sculptures that mimic other materials: wood, cardboard and tape. In his first show at Kordanksy, he plays with rope and the myriad shapes and meanings it can take on. Opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 31. 5130 W. Edgewood Pl., Mid-City, Los Angeles, davidkordanskygallery.com.
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, "Well," at Christopher Grimes Gallery. In 2014, the Spanish artist installed a hand-pump well in a New Mexico community as part of SITE Santa Fe. Now, with California dry as a bone, he is bringing 500 gallons of that water to a gallery in Santa Monica — a symbolic gift that gets at the nature of water as commodity. Opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 24. 916 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, cgrimes.com.
Doug Rickard, "N.A.," at Little Big Man Gallery. Rickard became known for mining Google Street View as a source of found photography. Now he has turned his attention to YouTube, where over a three-year-period, he has scoured the social media site for videos tagged with phrases such as "hood fight" and "passed out white girl" from which he has harvested an array of images that are both cinematic and bizarre. Opens Sept. 19 and runs through Oct. 31. 1427 E. 4th St., Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, Facebook.com/LittleBigManGallery.
For the record, 4:40 p.m. Sept. 10: An earlier version of this post said that Doug Rickard's exhibition "N.A." opens on Sept. 12. It opens Sept. 19.
Mark Steven Greenfield, "The Egun Squad," at Offramp Gallery. Pop-inflected works take on Afro-Brazilian belief in Greenfield's "Egungun" series, a play on the African spirits whose positive associations can also be rife with negativity. Opens Sunday at 2 p.m., 1702 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, offrampgallery.com.
Gail Albert Halaban, "Paris Views," at Kopeikin Gallery. The latest series by the New York-based photographer looks at the slivers of life that occur in the open windows of Paris — images that capture the romance of the city's architecture as much as they do intimate moments of contemplation. Opens Saturday at 6 p.m. and runs through Oct. 17. 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, kopeikingallery.com.
"Fred Tomaselli: The Early Works — Or How I Became A Painter," at Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton. Tomaselli, a painter and collagist, is known for hallucinatory arrangements of objects and patterns that explore inner journeys. But he got his start as a light and space artist, playing with ideas of perception. The Begovich Gallery is showing his earliest works, which have not be exhibited since they were first made, primarily in the '80s. Opens Saturday at 5 p.m. and runs through Dec. 17. 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, fullerton.edu.
"Far-Sited: California International Sculpture Symposium 1965/2015," at University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach. In 1965, an international conference brought sculptors from around the globe to Southern California to make works in collaboration with local industry. (I wrote about it in the spring.) Many of these pieces now dot the Cal State Long Beach campus. The museum exhibition explores this history, presenting an array of vintage photographs, sketches and maquettes. Open Saturday and runs through Dec. 13. 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, web.csulb.edu.
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. Opens Wednesday at 5 p.m. and runs through spring 2016. In front of Weingart Hall at Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Northeast Los Angeles, oxy.edu.
"Tongues Untied," at the MOCA Pacific Design Center. Exploring themes such as desire, love, loss and mourning, this show, drawn from the Museum of Contemporary Art's collection, looks at the world of art during the dawn of the AIDS crisis. The centerpiece of the show is Marlon Riggs' feature-length 1989 documentary, "Tongues Untied," a semiautobiographical look at the black, gay experience. Through Sept. Sunday. Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, moca.org.
"Rafa Esparza: I Have Never Been Here Before," at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Over the course of several weeks, Esparza transforms the galleries of this Hollywood space with thousands of adobe bricks that he made with his father. He is using these to create an elliptical structure that obscures the corners of the venerated white box. Through September. Sunday. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, welcometolace.org.
"Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action," at the Getty Museum. An exhibition jointly organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Frick Collection in New York brings together nearly 50 drawings and four paintings by the 16th century Italian Renaissance master known for bringing an unprecedented naturalism to art. Through Sept. Sunday. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
Ave Pildas, "Hollywood Boulevard: The '70s, at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Prostitutes, homeless and the star-obsessed. For three years in the early 1970s, Pildas photographed the habitués of Hollywood Boulevard, capturing the grittiness of one of L.A.'s most famous thoroughfares. This exhibition gathers more than 50 prints from that era. Through Sunday. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, welcometolace.org.
"Perfect Likeness: Photography and Composition," at the Hammer Museum. Where is the art in a medium that all of us practice relentlessly on a daily basis? This exhibition argues that part of it lies in composition. Artists such as Stan Douglas, Thomas Demand, Jeff Wall and Catherine Opie carefully consider the ways they set up and frame their subjects. Through Sunday. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, Los Angeles, hammer.ucla.edu.
"Petra Cortright: Niki, Lucy, Lola, Viola," at the Depart Foundation. The L.A.-based digital artist's latest exhibition features a video crafted from animations of strippers she downloaded from a website specializing in adult entertainment, among various other new works. Through Saturday. 9105 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, departfoundation.com.
"David Hockney: Painting and Photography," at L.A. Louver. The British artist is known for creating painted and photographic works that play with depth and perspective: canvases featuring torqued and bending rooms and photographic collages that create complete images out of fragments captured on film. Now, Hockney is playing with the possibility of digital photography and is stitching together images in ways that explore some of these notions. Through Sept. 19. 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, lalouver.com.
"The Art of Hair in Africa" at the Fowler Museum. This exhibition brings together an array of African hair ornaments made with wood, beads, copper wire and ivory — some of them embellished with delicate bas relief carvings. It also will include a film by Ghanaian American artist Akosua Adoma Owusu called "Me Broni Ba (My White Baby)," about the role that hair plays. Through Sept. 20. UCLA, North Campus, Los Angeles, fowler.ucla.edu.
Norbert Tadeusz, "Studio," at the El Segundo Museum of Art. The German painter, known for his colorful contorted figures, often presented in surreal scenarios, is little known in this country. But this exhibition — a collaboration between ESMoA and the L.A. County Museum of Art, which curated the show — provides an opportunity to get acquainted with his work. Through Sept. 26. 208 Main St., El Segundo, esmoa.org.
Eric Ernest Johnson, "Next Door Neighbor," at The Lodge. A salon-style show bursts with paintings, mobiles and sculptures — all made by Johnson — that riff, in literal and abstract ways, on the landscape of Southern California. Through Sept. 26. 1024 N. Western Ave., East Hollywood, thelodge.la.
Mark Bradford, "Scorched Earth," at the Hammer Museum. In Bradford's first solo museum show in his native Los Angeles, the artist is unveiling a dozen works, including a new series of abstract paintings and an audio installation that riffs on the macho nature of stand-up comedy. This one is not to miss. Through Sept. 27. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, Los Angeles, hammer.ucla.edu.
Marcia Hafif, "From the Inventory," at the Laguna Art Museum. The artist, known for producing monochromatic installation pieces that play with color, tone and the material nature of paint, is getting her first solo museum show in her native California in 40 years. The show gathers a series of works made in her Laguna Beach studio, such as her Red Paintings and Pacific Ocean Paintings. Runs through Sept. 27. 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, lagunaartmuseum.org.
Noah Purifoy, "Junk Dada," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The sculptor who turned the detritus of the Watts riots into sculpture and transformed a patch of desert in Joshua Tree into a wild assemblage museum is finally getting his due: a solo museum exhibition at LACMA. This includes work from early in his career, as well as a dozen assemblage works that he and other artists crafted for "66 Signs of Neon," the seminal post-riots show held at the Watts Towers Arts Center in 1966. Through Sept. 27. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"Touching the Past: The Hand and the Medieval Book," at the Getty Museum. A new exhibition looks at medieval illumination in the context of its original purpose: in books intended to be touched, handled and read. Through Sept. 27. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
"Mutated Game Form," at Nan Rae Gallery. Video games have had myriad influences on popular culture and graphic design; this show tracks the way they have affected the world of contemporary art. The exhibition features sculpture, video and painting by a range of contemporary artists. Through Sept. 27. Woodbury University, 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, mcd.woodbury.edu.
Ben Jones, "Ben Jones Ben Jones, Ben Jones…" at Ace Gallery. A founding member of the art collective Paper Rad, known for producing multimedia installations and wild animations that fused the psychedelic with the 8-bit, Jones is opening his first solo exhibition at Ace. The show will include a mix of boldly colored sculpture and painting that tips its hat to color minimalism as well as video games. Through September. 5514 Wilshire Blvd., second floor, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, acegallery.net.
"Mark Jenkins: Still Life," at Castanier Gallery. The artist is known for creating sculptures of human figures that he deposits on the street, often in uncanny positions: on their knees or with their heads embedded into walls of concrete — a way of playing with the landscape of the city and the human figure in ways that unnerve. Through Oct. 3. 2919 La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, castaniergallery.com.
"Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby," at Cal State Northridge Art Galleries. The artist who helped launch titles such as "The Avengers" and "X-Men" into the public imagination remains one of the most influential comics artists of all time — and this exhibition documents his career, which lasted for more than half a century. For comic book geeks, this one should be a site of pilgrimage. Through Oct. 10; a special public reception will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday. 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, csun.edu.
Casey Reas, "Linear Perspective," at Charlie James Gallery. Reas creates digital collages out of all manner of imagery, from photos that run in the New York Times to the profile pictures of thousands of his Twitter followers. These are then molded into hallucinatory videos that toy with aspects of these mass media. Through Oct. 17. 969 Chung King Rd., Chinatown, Los Angeles, cjamesgallery.com.
"In Focus: Animalia," at the Getty Museum. Drawn from the museum's collection of photographs, this small show focuses on the relationship between human and animal as defined by the camera's lens. This includes work by early 19th-century photographers who captured dogs, wild felines and even taxidermy game in early photographs and daguerreotypes. Through Oct. 18. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles, getty.edu.
"Documenters and Storytellers: Photographic Narratives in the 20th Century," at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. An exhibition drawn from the museum's extensive collection of photography looks at the ways in which documentary photography has been employed in artistic ways. The show features well-known photographers, such as Leon Freed, August Sander, Leon Levinstein and Eve Arnold. Through Oct. 18. There will be a special opening reception at 7 p.m. Sept. 12. Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont, rcwg.scrippscollege.edu.
"Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape," at the Long Beach Museum of Art. The museum has commissioned a series of new murals by well-known urban artists such as Saber, Greg "Craola" Simkins, Jeff Soto, Tristan Eaton and Audrey Kawasaki. These are all part of the summer arts festival Pow! Wow! Long Beach! Extended through Oct. 25. 2300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, lbma.org.
"Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent," at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Known for a groundbreaking body of work that combined faith, activism, snippets of found text and bold color, Kent was a Catholic nun who also had a prolific career as a fine art printer. Through Nov. 1. 490 E. Union St., Pasadena, pmcaonline.org.
"Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles," at the Architecture and Design Museum. As L.A. reaches the limits of sprawl, city planners, developers and designers are thinking about how to do more with less: less space, less material and a greater attention to questions of environment and density. This exhibition asked six architectural teams to consider housing options for the L.A. of the future. The examples vary from the radical (a series of buildings occupying strips of Wilshire, developed by Kulapat Yantrasast and the team at wHY Architecture) to the more restrained (a proposal by LA-Más that would pump up the density on granny apartments). Through Nov. 6. 900 E. 4th St., downtown Los Angeles, aplusd.org.
"To Live and Dine in L.A.," at the Central Library. The history of a place can be told through its texts: its books, its accumulated government documents and its menus, too. Critic and writer Josh Kun has pored over the Los Angeles Public Library's extensive historic menu archive and put together a show that tells a layered story about L.A.'s food and design — but also stories of politics, culture, society, race and gender. See an image gallery. Through Nov. 13. 630 W. 5th St., downtown Los Angeles, lapl.org.
"Gyre: The Plastic Ocean," and Cynthia Minet, "The Beast of Burden," at USC's Fisher Museum. A pair of exhibitions provide different perspectives on detritus. "Gyre" explores the gyre of trash in the Pacific through art — namely, the ways sculptors, photographers and others have employed discarded plastic as material for assemblages, photographs and installation. Minet, in the meantime, employs piles of plastic scraps to create illuminated life-size sculptures of animals. Through Nov. 21. 823 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park, Los Angeles, fisher.usc.edu.
"Adams, Curtis and Weston: Photographers of the American West," at the Bowers Museum. More than three dozen images produced by three of the most iconic American photographers tell the story of the American West — through dreamy images of landscape as well as the people who once inhabited it. Through Nov. 29. 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, bowers.org.
"KLAM Radio," at 323 Projects. Performance artist Lenae Day and writer Anna Kryczka have teamed up to put together a paean and parody to the bizarre art of small-town radio — in this case, in the fictional desert settlement of San Ranchito. This includes spoofs of public radio and right-wing talk. And, of course, there's the station's hilarious promotional slogan: "Jam out with your KLAM out." The podcasts are all available on the 323 Projects website. Listeners are welcome to call the gallery's line (323-843-4652) to leave dedications for the KLAM DJs. Through December, at 323projects.com.
"Various Small Fires (Working Documents)," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A show that illuminates unusual bits of LACMA history: the plan to have a robot patrol the galleries or the time a dog worked as a security guard. Included in the mix is Ed Ruscha's working sketch for his infamous mid-'60s canvas, "The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire." Through Feb. 7. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles, lacma.org.
"Noah Davis: Imitation of Wealth," at the Museum of Contemporary Art Grand Avenue. In 2013, Davis recreated 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 recreated the install — a work made more poignant by the artist's passing last week. (The piece is viewable through the windows of a storefront space adjacent to the museum free of charge.) Through Feb. 22. 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles, moca.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, Los Angeles, caamuseum.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., Los Angeles, lacma.org.