10 Shows to See in Los Angeles This May

This month’s selections of art to see in and around Los Angeles highlight how we tell our stories through material culture. Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs include iconic images of the Black Power and Civil Rights movements, while an exhibition of Ancient Greek, Maya, and Moche pottery conveys scenes of myth and daily life. Jackie Amézquita’s “soil paintings” and the collaborative works of the 3B Collective trace cultural and interpersonal networks from LA to Mexico and Central America. An exhibition at the Academy Museum chronicles the role that Jewish filmmakers and producers played in establishing Hollywood as a global cinematic capital, and an intimate tribute to the late LA musician and producer Ras_G immerses visitors in his sonic and visual world.

Sanaa Gateja: Nourishment

Sanaa Gateja’s dazzling constructions are made from thousands of hand-made paper beads, which he sews onto sheets of bark cloth, creating compositions that mix abstract patterns and organic motifs. His practice reflects both his roots and his global travels, fusing the technique practiced in his native Uganda of pounding tree bark into pliable sheets with the process of rolling paper beads that he encountered while living in London, eventually bringing it back to Uganda where other artisans have picked up the approach. Nourishment, Gateja’s first solo show in LA, takes place at the same time as his participation in the Ugandan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Karma (karmakarma.org)
7351 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles
Through May 18

Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital

Hollywoodland explores how a group of largely Jewish filmmakers, many of them immigrants, created the Hollywood studio system and established Los Angeles as the center of American film. Cinematic pioneers like Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, and the Warner Brothers found movie business opportunities free from the antisemitic barriers of other industries. The exhibition chronicles how the rise of Hollywood parallels its Jewish founderssuccess stories through multimedia displays focused on the major studios, an animated map of LA tracing the growth of the film industry in the early 20th century, and the short documentary “From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood.”

Academy Museum (academymuseum.org)
6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
Opens May 19

Jackie Amézquita: Nuestro Norte siempre a sido el Sur

Nuestro Norte siempre a sido el Sur (Our North Has Always Been The South) builds on Jackie Amézquita’s work in last year’s Made in LA biennial, which featured a grid of panels made from a mixture of soil, masa (corn flour), rainwater, copper, and other materials, referencing histories of migration, displacement, and borders. The centerpiece of her solo show at Charlie James Gallery is “bajo el cielo sobre el mismo suelo” (2024), a 14-foot-long, multi-panel series of “soil paintings” that incorporates earth from along the US-Mexico border. Into the panels, Amézquita has carved disparate border scenes including a father and child walking along train tracks, a checkpoint with barbed wire and an American flag, and depictions of native plants and animals that flourish on both sides.

Charlie James Gallery (cjamesgallery.com)
969 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles
May 3–June 8

Back On The Planet: The Spacebase Archives of Ras_G and the Afrikan Space Program

When Ras_G passed away unexpectedly in 2019, Los Angeles lost a beloved musician, producer, sonic scholar, and DJ who drew on a diverse range of inspirations including jazz, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism. Curated by Nita Pettus and Amitis Motevalli, this show is an immersive tribute to the influential artist including music equipment, instruments, gadgets, art, books, films, clothing, and nearly 5,000 records lent by friends and family. The exhibition presents an intimate portrait of Ras_G while also showcasing his influences, collaborators, and the creative community he helped establish.

William Grant Still Arts Center (wgsac.wordpress.com)
2520 South West View Street, West Adams, Los Angeles
Through June 15

Picture Worlds: Greek, Maya, and Moche Pottery

Picture Worlds brings together painted pottery from three distinct cultures: the Ancient Greeks, the Maya people in Central America, and the Moche people of northern Peru. Although separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years (from 700 BCE in Greece to 850 CE for the Maya and Moche), each society depicted mythic tales, religious rites, and social rituals on their ceramic vessels. By juxtaposing objects from these three sources, the exhibition reveals new insights about their shared aesthetic elements and communal traditions.

Getty Villa (getty.edu)
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California
Through July 29

Alice Wang’s first solo museum show in the US features glass works, ceramics, prints, and a film that trace her explorations into seemingly unnatural phenomena in the natural world. Drawing heavily from science, Wang swings from the micro to the macro, spanning molecular structures and the overwhelming abyss of space. Over six years, Wang documented sites in the American Southwest, Iceland, and the Arctic with similar landscapes as other planets, weaving footage of these “alien” sites with personal histories and drawing parallels between physical and psychological terrains.

Vincent Price Art Museum (vincentpriceartmuseum.org)
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, California
May 4–August 3

Kwame Brathwaite: Things Well Worth Waiting For

Over the course of six decades, photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who passed away last year, chronicled the breadth of African-American life and culture, creating what are now some of the most iconic images of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Things Well Worth Waiting For showcases his work devoted to music, fashion, and community through roughly 50 photos from the 1960s and 1970s. These include portraits of Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Abbey Lincoln, and other musicians; images of the Grandassa Models who epitomized the phrase “Black is Beautiful” that the photographer helped popularize; and a slideshow projection of color stills set to a jazz soundtrack curated by Swizz Beatz.

Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at the ArtCenter College of Design (artcenter.edu)
1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, California
Through August 17

Highway Hypnosis

In this show, Craft Contemporary showcases the work of the 3B Collective, a group of multidisciplinary LA-based artists who explore cultural commodification, labor, migration, and hybrid identities. Highway Hypnosis gathers murals, assemblages, textiles, ceramics, and installations made in conjunction with artisans located in areas where collective members have familial roots, including Oaxaca, Jalisco, El Salvador,  and Baja California. These collaborative works challenge the false binary of craft and fine art, while highlighting networks of cultural and social exchange.

Craft Contemporary (craftcontemporary.org)
5814 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile, Los Angeles
May 26–September 8


Kawaii, translated from Japanese as “cute” or “adorable,” is an international phenomenon that spans fashion, music, technology, art, and beyond. Organized in conjunction with Sebastian Masuda, known as the “father of kawaii,” this exhibition highlights art and artifacts that explore the origins and growth of the brightly colored, maximalist movement, capturing its widespread cultural and social significance.

Japan House (japanhousela.com)
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles
May 2–November 3

Out of Site: Survey Science and the Hidden West

Out of Site focuses on how technology, art, and state authority worked together to settle and control the Western United States. The show includes artworks, archival materials, and surveillance instruments such as mammoth plate cameras and drones to portray a region of natural beauty that has also been the site of mining operations, scientific research, and military bases. Featured artists include Carleton Watkins, Margaret Bourke-White, David Maisel, Michael Light, and Steven Yazzie, among others.

Autry Museum of the American West (theautry.org/exhibitions)
4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
May 18–January 5, 2025

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