Los Angeles Art Adventures to Put You in a Festive Mood


There have been plenty of reasons recently to complain about the weather in L.A. Day after day it has been cold, dark and rainy, which has made us Angelenos uncharacteristically moody. But in one corner of our universe, there is still plenty of sunshine. You wonder where? In the museums and galleries, silly!

This autumn season started strong -- I've already talked about the very interesting and challenging shows at MOCA and the Chinatown galleries. And what about the excellent photography and video exhibitions I urged you to see in Culver City and Santa Monica? I also reported on the happy invasion of saints and angels at the Getty and at LACMA. With all these exhibitions up during the holiday season, I like to think of L.A. as a sort of sprawling Christmas tree, with the art as its bright sparkling ornaments. Today, I want to add to this tree a few more colorful and quirky decorations.


At Ernie Wolfe Gallery, which specializes in African art and is located at the heart of the small Japanese community in West L.A., there is an exhibition of hand-painted images of Michael Jackson done by a number of self-taught contemporary African artists. God knows we've seen enough glossy photos and videos of the king of pop, but here comes a series of wild and punchy portraits that are so crazy, so over the top and so, ultimately, Michael Jackson. You really don't want to miss this one.


For many years, I've been a big fan of Roger Herman's paintings, with their explosions of color and expressive dance of brushstrokes. In recent years, he fell in love with the art of ceramics, and has produced hundreds of small clay pots which are so strange and so irresistibly ugly that you cannot help but love them. Until now, his ceramics came across to me as a fun and charming hobby, but his current show of wildly glazed vessels at Richard Telles Gallery truly turns a corner. Now, Herman's abstract paintings and earthy ceramics are equally strong partners, and we are witnessing the love affair between these two.


Almost a year ago, Blum and Poe organized an eye-opening museum-quality exhibition of Mono-Ha, the radical Japanese conceptual art movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. For this holiday season, the gallery has staged a 50-year survey of one of the movement's leaders, Kishio Suga.


There are monumental installations on the ground floor presenting industrial materials -- concrete, glass, rope and plastic sheeting -- in various states of tension and suspension. But the best part of the show is in the large upstairs gallery. There, you'll find dozens of small, wood assemblages, dancing and climbing -- with particularly engaging rhythm and spirit -- all over the gallery walls.


And let me finish by introducing you to a beautiful and mysterious Christmas tree hidden on Main Street in the heart of Santa Monica.


I joke you not, it's made out of dozens of shopping carts filled with colorful bulbs and bright Christmas lights. For the last 15 years, this tree mysteriously appears in the courtyard of Frank Gehry's Edgemar Center, one of the architectural landmarks of our city. The best time to visit it is in the early evening, when banal, prosaic shopping carts with their twinkling lights are miraculously transformed into a unique and artful Christmas tree.


Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.