Twelve SoCal-Centric Art Shows That Spotlighted L.A. in 2014

From Sriracha bottles to neon-enhanced tableaux and WPA murals, these exhibitions allowed Los Angeles to display itself

In a catalog essay for the Hammer Museum’s Made in LA biennial exhibition this summer, curator Connie Butler suggested that the Los Angeles art community is perpetually “coming to terms with its status as a megalopolis with a regional art scene.” At the end of a rich year for museum- and gallery-going here in Los Angeles, here’s a look back at a dozen shows that magnified the character of our region on a scale worthy of global attention.

Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Martínez found an artistic home in early 20th century Los Angeles, applying a strong modernist sensibility to depictions of his fellow immigrants’ struggles. In several pieces he ironically used pages of the then-nativist Los Angeles Times as a support medium.

Visual Cacophony at La Luz de Jesus
Lucha libre wrestling masks in surreal surroundings of color and light were the thematic centerpiece of eight paintings and two floor lamps created by former south L.A. graffiti artist Germs (a.k.a. Jaime Zacarias).

Innocents: Photos by Moby at Project Gallery
Inspired by the “cracks and un-cohesion” along with the “grandeur and nature” of his adopted hometown, Moby “invented the world’s first post-apocalyptic cult.” He shot these photos in and around the Hollywood Hills, which he calls “ground zero for cults.”

L.A. Heat: Taste Changing Condiments at the Chinese American Museum
This group exhibition of works in various media celebrated two culturally distinctive made-in-L.A. hot sauces, Sriracha and Tapatío.

Mike Kelley at the MOCA Geffen Contemporary
The massive retrospective of works and installations by Mike Kelley, just two years after his suicide, offered a fitting tribute to the career of the seminal and subversive L.A. artist.

Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible at LACMA
This astonishing sculptural installation and optical illusion from an artist long associated with the southern California Light and Space movement evoked the “harsh, shimmering, white light that glints off cars and other metal surfaces” in and around Los Angeles.

Mary Weatherford: Los Angeles at the David Kordansky Gallery
The final show in Kordansky’s old Culver City space was devoted to Weatherford’s Los Angeles series of seven abstract paint and neon tableaux, each representing a location or atmospheric condition in greater L.A.

Distant Parallels a Museum of Latin American Art exhibition at the Long Beach Collaborative space
This group show featuring the work of five young Los Angeles artists with personal and family origins in Mexico and Colombia offered multiple perspectives on the experience of standing with one foot on each side of the cultural border.

Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice at LACMA
Biberman’s WPA-era mural depicting Abbott Kinney (the man) and the development of Venice used to be on public view in the old Venice post office. This year it was the centerpiece of a one-room exhibition devoted to the history of one of L.A.’s most popular neighborhoods.

Made in L.A. 2014 at the Hammer Museum
This second biennial exhibition showcased work by 35 mostly under-recognized or up-and-coming Los Angeles artists. Without any unifying theme or sensibility, the show presented a hodgepodge of styles and approaches to art-making, reflecting the diversity of the city’s creative scene and what curator Connie Butler described as the “tension between its intense localism and its international ambitions.”

Clare Graham & MorYork: The Answer is Yes at the Craft & Folk Art Museum
CAFAM recreates something of the atmosphere of Highland Park’s MorYork cultural and community center in an exhibition of pieces by proprietor Clare Graham, who makes extraordinary works of art and furniture out of basic recycled materials such as bottlecaps, soda can pop tops, dominoes, toy googly eyes, badminton shuttlecocks and lots of other stuff.

Cameron: Songs of the Witch Woman at MOCA Pacific Design Center
One of the most fascinating and idiosyncratic artists of mid-20th century Los Angeles finally gets her due in an exhibition devoted to her life and work. More than a dabbler in the occult, Cameron infused her work with mystical imagery while communing with almost everyone who was anyone in the Los Angeles avant garde.