For this month’s edition of Art Beat, SIXTY has selected shows in New York and Los Angeles that includes mugshots, bagels, and bats. What can we say? It’s a weird and wonderful art world this time of year. Herewith, your guide to the best shows happening this October.
NEW YORK CITY: Guadalupe Maravilla at Jack Barrett
Gongs, conch shells, anatomical models, agave leaves. These are some of the objects that Salvadoran artist Guadalupe Maravilla integrates into his latest exhibition, now on view at Jack Barrett. An autobiographical show reflecting his journey as an immigrant to the United States, these works serve a calming yet instructive purpose.
Maravilla travelled to the U.S. as a child—alone. The difficulty of such a passage is converted into a larger narrative about the struggles that immigrants face, but the works are still intensely personal. And rather than using images and indications of deep hardship, these installations and drawings are used to calm and soothe viewers while maintaining their message.
A seafoam trim lines the gallery, and a sundry variety of works include totems, animal figures, and various materials and objects collected from around Central America. The show is a fantastic mix of traditional and contemporary practice, and manages to be both restorative and somber at the same time. These are shrines that contain important messages. Through October 20, 2019.
NEW YORK CITY: Criminal Type at Apexart
For a time, the mugshot was treated like a punchline. Today, we have Jeremy Meeks, the preternaturally attractive guy who got a modeling deal out of his mugshot. But dig into the past of the mugshot, and you’ll find a very different, more serious history. An exhibition at Apexart explores the origins and history of the genre.
Called The Criminal Type, the show highlights how, in the 19th century, photography was a relatively recent technological arrival. At the same time, there was a deep interest in classifying criminals, and predicting who might do harm. The mugshot was a way of starting the process of figuring out the bad guys from the good guys.
This, of course, was driven by stereotypes of both race and class. Rather than rooting out crime, the process reinforced pre-existing notions of criminality. The group of artists draw upon archival material and their use of photography to challenge the idea that you can know who’s a criminal just by looking at them. Through October 26, 2019.
NEW YORK CITY: Russ & Daughters exhibit at the Center for Jewish History
Thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth lox on a bagel; latkes with sour cream and applesauce; the sweet, flaky rugelach fresh from the oven. If this Jewish fare is making you salivate, then we have got the exhibition for you. There’s nothing to nosh, but it will be a great pre-game.
Russ & Daughters claims the title of most famous Jewish delicatessen in New York, and rightly so. Opened in 1914 by the Polish Russ family, and still at the same location—along with two other spots—the appetizing store is a piece of the city’s history, and still regarded as the best in the game. An exhibition at the Center for Jewish History dives into the people behind the beloved boards.
Historic photos of the family and store, audio clips, and images of the Lower East Side from the museum’s collection give a sense of how these enterprising briners of herring got their start. Besides this collection of historic ephemera, there’s a replica of the original counter. Pay your respects before your stomach leads you out the door. Through January 31, 2020.
LOS ANGELES: Natural History of Horrors at NHM
Why is a natural history museum having an exhibit about monsters? Well, dear reader, that’s because there’s a little truth in all those freaky tales. The Natural History Museum of L.A. County’s show about the real-world beginnings of classic movie monsters— including Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein—is more educational than spooky.
The museum is not only home to fossils and deerskin trousers. Since 1930, it’s obtained countless artifacts from Universal Studios. The exhibit will include movie props and film footage, but also specimens from their collection, exploring how these stories got their start—such as showing a prop bat from the original 1931 film alongside a real bat.
One origin story we’ll give is about the Mummy. When King Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened in 1922, the man who funded the dig died shortly thereafter. News of a curse spread throughout the world, with newspapers egging the story on. The origins of the other golden era scaries are equally informative and shocking. Through April 19, 2020.
LOS ANGELES: Donna Huanca at Marciano Art Foundation
For her show Obsidian Ladder, artist Donna Huanca has created a cold yet utopic world of femme empowerment. At the Marciano Art Foundation, a series of striking paintings and sculptures—blue and gold and white abstraction with an organic, sci-fi edge—turn the space into a landscape, and moving through it, are some living artworks. Models walk through the gallery, painted in a similar palette.
However, unlike other artists who use live performers as part of their work, there is no direction from Huanca. The models are allowed to do as they please, a significant departure from the method, bringing to mind artists like Tino Seghal, who gives intensely detailed instructions to his performers.
Huanca, granting agency to these people, also lends a charge of the unexpected. Models can be seen surreally gliding across the white walls, their painted bodies rubbing off on to them. The performances only take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, but the work is strong enough to see on its own. Through December 1, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Theaster Gates at Regen Projects
A lot of artists talk about equality, economics, and urban issues, but not a lot of artists do what Theaster Gates does. Gates will do projects like revitalize an old brick factory and hire brickmakers from the neighborhood, or creating a housing and performance space complex for 32 low-income artists.
Besides these sorts of urban renewal projects, often done with developers, architects, and a slew of other professionals, Gates also has a more traditional art practice. Line Drawing for Shirt and Cloak at Regen Projects displays his talent for making art that is more recognizable as such, though still with a social thrust.
The artist took his entire wardrobe and created a series of layered sculptures out of it. He obtained a giant steel object, seemingly from an industrial site, that says “Shirt and Cloak: Deep Storage.” There are dozens of car mats and super elegant metal structures that hang balletically. Besides their aesthetic allure, there are deep allusions here to family, history, retail and fashion. Through November 2, 2019.
Header photo: Theaster Gates, Line Drawing for Shirt and Cloak installation view, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.