Five Exhibitions to See in Los Angeles

From Hayden Dunham's sculptural tableaux to Albert Oehlen's large-scale abstractions, these are the must-see shows in LA

BY Gracie Hadland in Critic's Guides , US Reviews | 26 MAY 21


Takako Yamaguchi, Abstraction in Reverse, 2008
Takako Yamaguchi, Abstraction in Reverse, 2008, oil, bronze leaf on canvas, 91 × 122 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Stars, Los Angeles

Takako Yamaguchi


15 May – 3 July

With a tongue-in-cheek nod to her heritage, LA-based artist Takako Yamaguchi adopts a flatness in her work that is often associated with Japanese landscape painting. Made between 1998 and 2008, the six paintings on display at Stars play with – and, at times, deliberately disrupt – pattern and decoration. In Romantic Anti-Capitalism (2003), for instance, Yamaguchi creates tension by foregrounding cool grey architectural columns against a backdrop of organic forms in molten gold, blue-green and deep crimson. Reminiscent of a digital non-space – an eerie horror vacui – Yamaguchi’s paintings speak of another world: rooted in this one yet transcendental

Jason Yates Are We Still Friends?, 2021, installation view. Photo: Josh Schaedel
Jason Yates, 'Are We Still Friends?', 2021, exhibition view, New Low, Los Angeles. Courtesy the artist and New Low, Los Angeles; photography: Josh Schaedel

Jason Yates

New Low

2 May – 13 June

Jason Yates’s solo exhibition at New Low, ‘Are We Still Friends?’, comprises a large sculpture of a cartoonish dog in matte black – Please Don’t Ever Leave Me (The Existential Sadness) (2019/2021) –and a wall work that asks: ‘Are We Okay?’ (2021) – each letter of which is accompanied by an animal cartoon. About the size of the average gallery-goer, if they were to slump a little and hang their head, the sculpture is just high enough to be patted, but still low enough to be looked down upon. The artist’s question lingers and remains unanswered: you know the answer might possibly be no, but you find yourself more curious as to what prompted the query in the first place. In the end, how could you refuse something with such sorrowful eyes?

Tara Walters, 'Dropping In', 2021, exhibition view, Kristina Kite, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist and Kristina Kite, Los Angeles
Tara Walters, 'Dropping In', 2021, exhibition view, Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photography: Brica Wilcox

Tara Walters

Kristina Kite

8 May – 3 July

Tara Walters’s ‘Dropping In’, at Kristina Kite, presents a series of seven, large-scale paintings made using watercolours, oil and saltwater from the Pacific Ocean. The imagery – evocative of children’s fairy tales and nursery rhymes – is delicate, soft and gauzy. A castle is pictured in a blue celestial field beneath a rainbow; a dog and a horse swirl together in a scene that echoes the work of Marc Chagall; and, nearby, a garden of wilting flowers. The paintings’ subjects are practically translucent while conceptually opaque: the watercolour, oil and ocean water trickle off the canvas leaving some areas almost bare, empty. What remains unclear is where, exactly, is this fantastical realm Walters depicts? To enter it at this point in history feels like a retreat into the clouds. 

Abert Oehlen, Ömega Man, 2021, installation view
Abert Oehlen, Ömega Man, 2021, installation view, Gaga & Reena Spaulings, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist and Gaga & Reena Spaulings, Los Angeles

Albert Oehlen

Gaga & Reena Spaulings

1 May – 29 May

Gaga & Reena Spaulings hosts a show of four new works by the German artist Albert Oehlen. Pasted directly onto the gallery’s painted-yellow walls, Oehlen’s canvases (Ömega Man, 2021) are dense with abstract gestures in sprayed, dripped and brushed paint. But the paint is almost secondary to the canvases themselves, which are shaped – in four variations of a singular form – to resemble a crouched, cartoon-like human body.

Hayden Dunham, without wings, 2021
Hayden Dunham, without wings, 2021, chamomile, turmeric, rose hips, lilies, sunflowers, calendula flowers, orchid, magnesium, auto body paint, porcelain, lemon balm, spring water, acrylic, wood, adhesive, screen,101 × 76 × 9 cm. Courtesy the artist and Artist Curated Project, Los Angeles

Hayden Dunham

Artist Curated Projects

1 – 31 May

For her solo exhibition at Artist Curated Projects, ‘Infinite Lift’, Hayden Dunham has produced a series of sculptural tableaux that attempt to capture in physical form elements in a state of flux. Made by combining synthetic and natural materials, works such as without wings (2021) are constructed to encapsulate some type of liquid – in this case spring water. Dunham employs solid counterparts to the fluids – metal, rubber – in an attempt to keep the aqueous solutions from spilling out, but everything seems to be held in place by a high level of viscosity. Layered on metal screens, these materials remain stagnant in time, like the ash-preserved bodies of the victims of Pompeii. Using both soft and hard materials to charge her works with erotic tension, Dunham’s dynamic works also convey the anxiety of trying to keep everything together.

Gracie Hadland is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, USA.