The Best Exhibits at Museums and Galleries in L.A. in October

Your guide to new openings, must-sees, and what you need to catch while you can

We’re blessed with an abundance of museums and art galleries here in L.A., but with so many shows rotating in and out at any given time, it can be hard to keep up. Nobody wants to be the person who only finds out about a cool exhibit when it’s closing down and heading out of town. To help you make the most of your gallery-going, we’ve picked a selection of the best exhibits at museums and galleries around town.

New Openings

Dark Fantasy — UTA Artist Space

Opens October 11

In this group show, UTA Artist Space and Carpenters Workshop Gallery team up to present a selection of pieces pulled from influential artists. Among the works on view will be the Los Angeles debut of musician-fashion designer-artist Virgil Abloh’s “Acqua Alta” series and a new, site-specific work created for the UTA space by Studio Drift.

Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again — The Broad

Opens October 19

Artist Shirin Neshat gets her largest museum exhibition to date, with this show created by the Broad. Spend time with over 230 photographs and eight video installations from Neshat’s three-decade career. Much of the work is informed by Neshat’s Iranian heritage, and perspective as a person living outside Iran, closely watching the Green Movement, Arab Spring, 9/11, and other global political events.

DENSE-CITY: Housing for Quality of Life and Social Capital — Airport Gallery

Opens October 19

Brooks + Scarpa Studio and 18th Street Arts Center have collaborated on an exhibit that immerses attendees in one of the critical issues of our time, the housing crisis. Working with artists, architects, urban planners, the exhibition takes an interdisciplinary approach to visualizing vibrant communities.

Ed & Nancy Kienholz: The Merry-Go-World or Begat by Chance and the Wonder Horse Trigger — L.A. Louver

Opens October 24

In 1992, L.A. Louver gallery staged “The Merry-Go-World,” a large installation by artists Ed and Nancy Kienholz. The ambitious, interactive structure, which took the pair four years to construct, has since been displayed at galleries around the world–but has never returned to Los Angeles until now. Designed to inspire compassion and an openness to the suffering of strangers, viewers spin a carnival wheel to discover which of eight very different “lives” they will experience, forcing one to consider the privileges and suffering a person is given by the randomness of their birth.

Ongoing Exhibits

Mary Corse: A Survey in Light – LACMA

Closes November 11

Topanga Canyon-based artist Mary Corse has been working since the mid-1960s, when she broke through as one of the few women associated with the West Coast Light and Space Movement. The connective thread amongst all of the pieces in this, her first solo museum survey, is the reflection and refraction of light; she uses a variety of materials, even the microspheres that illuminate street lane markers, to create pieces that shimmer and glow as the viewer moves around them.

Kenny Scharf: Optimistically Melting! — Honor Fraser

Closes November 16

Known for his surreal, swirling cartoon figures, SoCal legend Kenny Scharf takes on the still life in a new group of paintings on display at Honor Fraser. Outside the gallery, Scharf is constructing a garland built from plastic detritus that will wrap around the building as a statement about consumption.

Donna Huanca: Obsidian Ladder – Marciano Art Foundation

Closes December 1

This site-specific installation in the Marciano’s 13,000-square-foot Theater Gallery marks the first significant solo exhibition in the U.S. for Donna Huanca. Huanca specializes in using materials taken from nature–clay, oil, turmeric, sand–to create what she calls “skin paintings.” The show incorporates the senses of sight, smell, and hearing, and uses both fixed works and performance.

Coyote Leaves the Res: The Art of Harry Fonseca – The Autry Museum

Closes January 5, 2020

Harry Fonseca was an influential force in shaping the look of contemporary Native American art. This collection of work focuses on the character of Coyote, the shape-shifting trickster of lore, depicted by Fonseca in leather and sneakers, amid colorful, graphic designs.

Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century – The Autry Museum

Closes March 1, 2020

Cross Colours was an emerging brand from a pair of Black L.A. designers when Will Smith started sporting their clothes on screen in early episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Soon the brand, always informed by Afrocentrism and progressive politics, became a national sensation. This exhibition dives in on 30 years of the brand, from the vintage textiles that informed the designs, to how the company used fashion as a platform to address social justice.

Disruptors – Petersen Automotive Museum

Closes March 15, 2020

Designers Rem D. Koolhaas and Joey Ruiter turn their innovative, minimalist sensibilities to cars, skateboards, and other objects in this just-opened exhibit. How each of these A-list designers reshapes everyday functional items to be visually and technologically sophisticated is sure to provoke some thoughts.

Closing Soon

Celeste Rapone: Future Amateur – Roberts Projects Gallery

Closes October 12

Chicago-based artist Celeste Rapone stages her first show at Roberts Projects Gallery, featuring her large, colorful paintings. The images are most frequently women, doing everyday tasks or in fantastical settings, but always unapologetically the subject of attention.

Douglas Tausik Ryder: Body Language – Jason Vass Gallery

Closes October 19

Douglas Tausik Ryder’s work marries the warm, organic material of wood with digital design. Ryder has pioneered a high-tech system that allows him to sculpt wood using customized industrial machinery in his studio. He applies this practice to create smooth, curved shapes, primarily inspired by female human bodies.

Judy Chicago: Los Angeles — Jeffrey Deitch

Closes November 2

Feminist pioneer Judy Chicago was making art in L.A. well before the scene was embracing women. A full survey of the paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations she created between 1965 and 1972 goes on display at Deitch.

Theaster Gates: Line Drawing for Shirt and Cloak — Regen Projects

Closes November 2

In his second solo exhibition at Regen, groundbreaking Chicago artist Theaster Gates presents a series of activations that incorporate metal work and his own wardrobe. Gates also wrote, performed, and recorded a vocal score to accompany the exhibit.


RELATED: These L.A. Artists Are Bringing Queer Perspectives Into Focus

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