What to See During Los Angeles Gallery Weekend

From Pia Camil’s termite-nest sculptures to Esteban Jefferson graphite drawings, these are the must-see LA shows

BY Terence Trouillot in Critic's Guides | 26 JUL 21

Celebrating another year, Los Angeles Gallery Weekend is running concurrently with the Los Angeles edition of the Frieze Viewing Room, bringing together galleries from LA and offering a city-wide program of events. Wherever you are in the world, Frieze members can view the 47 leading galleries featured on The Viewing Room, however for those able to travel to LA, here are our top picks on what to see.

  1 Pia Camil Nido s y Nudos Installation view, 2021 Blum & Poe, Los Angeles © Pia Camil , Courtesy of the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo Photo: Jenalee Harmon
Pia Camil, ‘Nidos y Nudos’, 2021, exhibition view, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles © Pia Camil. Courtesy: the artist, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo; photography: Jenalee Harmon

Pia Camil

Blum & Poe

17 July – 14 August

During the worldwide shutdowns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico City-based artist Pia Camil relocated with her family to find solace in the Mexican countryside. There, she became entranced by the complex architecture of termite nests: massive, intricate mounds of dirt built collectively by colonies of insects. Inspired by these tremendous structures, Camil created ‘Nidos’ (Nests, 2021), a series of sculptures made from cement and recycled newspaper in the likeness of these termite dwellings. Camil’s ‘Nests’, however, are painted in solid, vibrant colours – red, purple, turquoise, etc. – and feature tiny apertures showcasing different photographic images from newspaper clippings that, removed from their original context, are here impregnated with new meanings and associations. Alongside these strange, beautiful monoliths is a series of works of paper – ‘Nudos’ (Knots, 2021) – colourful swirls in oil stick and clay that hark back to the sinuous pathways made by these arthropods. Together, the series present a kind of collective practice in storytelling, in which Camil ruminates on ideas of communal living through the language of the natural world.

All’s Fair…, 2021 Oil on canvas 18" x 25 ¹⁄₄" [HxW] (45.72 x 64.14 cm)" [HxW] (45.72 x 64.14 cm)
Marisa Adesman, All’s Fair…, 2021, oil on canvas, 46 × 64 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles

Marisa Adesman

Anat Ebgi

24 July – 11 September

The St. Louis-based painter Marisa Adesman presents ‘Forklore’, her first solo exhibition with Anat Ebgi in Los Angeles. In a suite of seven new paintings (all works 2021), the artist pictures the secret, sinister lives of cutlery: spindly forks contorting in the dead of the night, their tines flaying out like witches’ fingers in Taking the Edge Off or ominously rising through a black marble kitchen counter while flames abound in Counterpoints. In some instances, these rambunctious utensils are found under the tablecloth, wrapped around each other in an orgiastic mess, likely in coitus (All’s Fair …). The works are humorous, dark and incredibly enjoyable to look at, not least because Adesman’s brand of neo-surrealism is both clever and salacious, while her masterful draftsmanship and profound attention to detail make her tableaux all the more mesmerizing.

'The Going Away Present', 2021, exhibition view, Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photography: Brica Wilcox
‘The Going Away Present’, 2021, exhibition view, Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy: the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photography: Brica Wilcox

Going Away Present

Kristina Kite Gallery

24 July – 21 August

Bruce Hainley, Los Angeles’s favourite art critic and flâneur, is leaving his beloved city to take a post at Rice University in Houston. As a friendly send off – as the title of the show suggests (‘The Going Away Present’) – gallerist Kristina Kite and art critic Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer have organized a massive group exhibition to celebrate Hainley’s influence on art discourse for the past 25 years in the City of Angels. With 49 participating artists – including Kelly Akashi, Gary Indiana, Wayne Koestenbaum, Lisa Lapinski, Laura Owens, Kenneth Tam and John Waters – the show feels both nostalgic and forward thinking, which is to say it gives off a great queer 1990s vibe that feels feverishly contemporary.

Esteban Jefferson  ‘Gratuité’, 2021  Graphite on watercolor paper   72.5×57.5 in   Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Los Angeles  Photo credit: Dan Finlayson
Esteban Jefferson, Gratuité, 2021, graphite on watercolor paper, 184 × 146 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Tanya Leighton, Los Angeles; photography: Dan Finlayson

Esteban Jefferson

Tanya Leighton

17 July – 14 August

At Tanya Leighton, New York-based artist Esteban Jefferson presents a selection of works from his series ‘Petit Palais’ (2019–ongoing) – beautifully rendered compositions that depict the reception area inside the Beaux-Arts rotunda of the Petit Palais Museum in Paris. Marked by two sculptural busts of Black subjects located behind the reception desk in the entrance – as if only tangentially part of the museum’s collection – the scene is meticulously re-created by Jefferson, who brings into focus these peripheral works while blurring out the surroundings: museum attendants, visitors, counters, computers, etc. In this recent iteration, however, Jefferson forgoes his use of paint and canvas, drafting a selection of works on paper that sees these busts rendered in deep black and their environment faintly drawn in pencil – a ghost image of the space itself. The drawings are tacked to the wall in a grid-like formation, lending the display a gritty look that contrasts starkly with the ethereal, washed-out scenes of Jefferson’s paintings. Here, the drawings are simple and raw, almost aggressively stripping out the mundane and loudly calling attention to these objects as valuable artworks – not marginal, decorative pieces reminiscent of a colonial past.

Rakeem Cunningham Saber , 2021 Edition of 3 Archival inkjet print 24 x 16 in (61 x 40.6 cm)
Rakeem Cunningham, Saber, 2021, edition of 3, archival inkjet print, 61 × 40 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Ochi Projects, Los Angeles

Rakeem Cunningham

Ochi Projects

26 June – 7 August

Rakeem Cunningham’s ‘Hero’, the multimedia artist’s first solo exhibition with Ochi Projects, is an intimate examination of queer discovery in the wake of idolizing and identifying with ‘heroes’ that we might not look like or fully exemplify. In a series of images, Cunningham photographs himself in cosplay, dressing up in these queer fabulations of the ‘superhero’. Clad in polyester fabrics and brandishing handmade weapons, he occasionally casts his gaze at the viewer. The large-scale installation Heroes Catch the Holy Ghost (all works 2021) takes up much of the back wall of the gallery. Presumably acting as a shrine to Cunningham’s pre-adolescent self, the work reminded me of the door of my own childhood bedroom, which I plastered with posters of album covers and cut out cereal boxes. Here, Cunningham covers the wall with images of Manga anime (Dragon Ball Z is the only reference I can identify with confidence) along with other childhood remnants, including a few action figures, as well as various fabrics and costumes, to create a world of its own – and a reflection of the artist’s complex persona.


Terence Trouillot is senior editor of frieze. He lives in New York, USA.