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

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

JERRELL GIBBS, “Pac, Thugz Mansion,” Oil on canvas, 71 3/4 x 74 inches


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, consult our monthly guide to the best museum exhibits in L.A.

New Openings

Disembodiment — UTA Artist Space

Closes January 25

Disembodiment highlights recent work from six young, black artists: Jarvis Boyland, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Jerrell Gibbs, Marcus Jahmal, Clotilde Jiménez, and Vaughn Spann. Curator Marianne Ibrahim Lenhardt says the pieces “upend established narratives around race and identity.”

Julie Mehretu – LACMA

Closes May 17

Another collaboration between LACMA and New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art, this is the first-ever comprehensive retrospective of the career of Julie Mehretu. The 49-year-old, Ethiopian-born artist makes work that grapples with colonialism, history, capitalism, displacement, and war. The show includes over 70 works, all made since 1996.

Christopher Myers: Drapetopia – Fort Gansevoort

Opens December 14

New York City gallery Fort Ganesvoort opens a new location in L.A. with his show by New York-based artist and author Christopher Myers. The pieces on display are all textile and sculptural works, many of them inspired by a 15 year project that found Myers visiting juvenile detention facilities around the country to meet with incarcerated young people.

Ongoing Exhibits

Tokyo Pop Underground — Jeffrey Deitch

Closes January 18

Curated by Tokyo gallerist Shinji Nanzuka, Tokyo Pop Underground examines Japan’s contemporary art and pop culture underground from the 1960s to today. Some of the pieces were not originally intended as fine art, but were designed objects from everyday and commercial life which caught Nanzuka’s curatorial eye. Another theme in the show is artists who were little-recognized in Japan in previous decades because their work was deemed too radical or anti-conformity for their time.

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

Closes January 18

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.

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

Closes February 16

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.

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

Kenny Scharf: Optimistically Melting! — Honor Fraser

Closes December 14

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.

Alex Hubbard: The Corner of the Table — Regen Projects

Closes December 21

Los Angeles-based artist Alex Hubbard opens his first solo show in his home city since 2012 this month. The show will include new multimedia painting world, which incorporate nontraditional and industrial materials like resin, fiberglass, and auto body paint, and two video installations combining handmade projectors streaming animation.

Ryan Schude — bG Gallery

Closes December 31

Photographer Ryan Schude, who has shot images for Los Angeles, mounts a solo exhibition at bG Gallery in Santa Monica. He’s best-known for large images that feature numerous models in elaborate scenes, described as “mingling surrealism and Americana with a touch of contemporary humor.”

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.