Editor’s Note: The following article is by Scott Timberg, a long-time Los Angeles arts journalist who took his own life in December at the age of 50 after we had gone to press. Scott’s passing touched us deeply; some of the Alta team had worked closely with him over the decades, namely at the Los Angeles Times and at Los Angeles magazine. The journalism community mourned him with a collective remembrance and created a memorial fund to help his family with expenses and his son’s college education. It is an honor to have published Scott’s work, and it breaks our hearts that there won’t be more.
• Through Mar. 15
• Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 1100 Kettner Blvd., San Diego
San Diego sits only a few miles from Mexico, and México quiero conocerte reminds us that a whole series of visual art traditions open up across the border. Manuel Álvarez Bravo is one of Latin America’s best-known artists, and his photographs, many of which concern his native Mexico City, offer the viewer more than initially meets the eye (few artists of any kind used light as skillfully). Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City and was trained by Álvarez Bravo; now 77, she works in some ways like a documentary filmmaker, looking at everyday life, often among Mexico’s indigenous tribes. Both bodies of work show Mexicans archiving their own nation—one often defined and represented by outsiders.
• Through Mar. 1
• Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Dr., Palm Springs
Italian-raised Alexander Girard brought visual wit and a love of color to what might have seemed like drab projects: textile design for the Herman Miller furniture company, a 180-foot-long mural for John Deere. Like L.A.’s Charles and Ray Eames, whose designs Girard sometimes employed and whom he often collaborated with, Girard was both a figure of midcentury modernism and an artist whose work has managed to remain timeless. Universe gives viewers a significant glimpse of his career: textiles, furniture, and a full-scale replica of the iconic conversation pit he designed for the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana.
• Feb. 2–May 10
• Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
Whether it’s his menacing statues, his paintings made with bodily fluids, or the 50-foot-tall inflatable ketchup bottle that went up on the Paramount Pictures Studios back lot last winter for Frieze Los Angeles (see left), Paul McCarthy typically finds the sweet spot between cheeky and frightening (while occasionally hitting on grotesque). Head Space, the first major U.S. survey of the Utah-born, Los Angeles–based artist’s drawings and works on paper, travels from an early ink-on-paper portrait of a gorilla titled Self-Portrait to newer works that utilize charcoal, pencil, and, uh, peanut butter.