Article and Photos By: Scott S. Smith and Sandra Wells

In a number of our prior columns we have highlighted art galleries featuring what we felt were some of the few truly talented artists in SoCal. This time we are focusing on museums, shows, and public art that should be on the list of places and events to enable both residents and visitors to fully enjoy.

Getty Center is the vast art complex on a hill in Brentwood overlooking L.A., which features some of the world’s most valuable paintings, such as van Gogh’s “Irises” and Pontormo’s “Portrait of a Halberdier.” The four major pavilions open to the public house paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, decorative arts, and photos, primarily from pre-20th century Europe, so plan to spend most of a day there (photo is of a painting by English artist Joseph Wright showing two boys blowing up an animal bladder to use as a toy). There are always special exhibitions.

Getty Villa is its sister museum in Pacific Palisades that houses Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and other Mediterranean antiquities.

Los Angeles County Art Museum next door to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Fairfax and Wilshire is one of SoCal’s major centers for featuring current and historical art from around the globe. It has been undergoing a major transformation in recent years and the most notable exhibit we saw in the modern art BCAM building was Metropolis II, which has Chris Burden’s 1,100 custom-designed mini-cars going around downtown buildings at high speed (100,000 circuits per hour). In the Resnick Pavilion there are silent films and photos of the battles of World War I (through July 7). Students of Judy Baca were preparing an addition to update her Great Wall of L.A. (the enormous mural on the concrete walls of the L.A. River) and her new painting depicts civil rights activists (see photo).

Vincent Price Art Museum is on the campus of East L. A. College in Monterey Park. He was not only an actor (still remembered as the star of horror classics such as “House on Haunted Hill” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”), but an artist with an art degree and an avid collector who donated much of what he owned to help students learn. Many of the sculptures, tapestries, and other objects were created by the indigenous peoples of the ancient Americas as far back as 2000-1000 BCE (produced in the Najarit-Jalisco-Colima region of Mexico) and as late as the Chimu culture of coastal Peru (900-1500 CE; see photo of a ritual ceramic censer). The museum, now with 9,000 objects, has become a venue for emerging artists.

Mr. Brainwash Art Museum The current exhibit features French artist Thierry Gusta aka Mr. Brainwash, including enormous sculptures of heroes in sports and other fields, pop culture and movie scenes, as well as pictures of historic figures in unusual settings (see photo of a portrait that is half-Shakespeare and half-Chaplin above a stack of books). Gusta began making documentary videos of outsider and street artists like Shepard Fairy and Bansky, who encouraged him to create his own work.

Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation The Weisman mansion in Holmby Hills was the home of the late businessman, philanthropist and art collector. Tours are offered to see the more than 400 modern works by 175 artists from the innovative movements that rose at the dawn of the 20th Century. The collection includes surrealists like Miro and Ernst, the pop art of Warhol and Lichtenstein, and paintings by Ruscha and Hockney. Sculptures throughout the home and in the garden and pool area are especially eye-popping, such as the bronze Dionysus by Sandro Chia and Sodbuster by Luis Jimenez, made of fiberglass with acrylic urethane coating (see photo). Our guide, Dick Heiser, was able to discuss every piece, from its symbolism to how the exotic materials were used.

Jules Muck, public artist Muck began doing graffiti in Europe as a teen, became famous as a graffiti artist and muralist in New York City, then drove to Venice where her murals are everywhere and she maintains a studio that can be visited on weekends. Her images often combine humor, animation, animals, celebrities, spirituality, sobriety, and controversial messages and can be found on everything from RVs to the homes of stars (photo of a volcano and rainbow reflects an experience in Bali).

L.A. Art Show is the premier showcase for top galleries locally and from around the world, held in the downtown Convention Center each year in February. bG Gallery in Santa Monica, is known for hosting “accomplished artists who have crossed traditionally contentious art ideologies, such as insider-outsider” (see photo of Tom Pergola’s mixed media “Jelly Beans”). Its 11th annual Spectrum Gestalt show will take place in summer 2024. We also liked a number of the imaginative painters featured at Arcadia Contemporary of New York City, such as Denis Sarazhin (one of his works showed a knight in a cart towed by lions) and Stephen Mackey (whose women have mysterious appearances and themes, such as one with a bandaged face about to cut a flower). Cynthia Corbett Gallery in London highlighted the enormous print of a collage by Lluis Barba “Taste: Brueghel and Rubens,” which won a Young Masters Award for reinterpreting the original collaboration about the five senses, but showing contemporary figures.