A Holiday List of the Best Art around Town

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So my friends, this is the time of year when our guestrooms and couches get crowded with kids, friends, in-laws, you name it…and we are expected to feed and entertain them. For tasty ideas, you definitely want to tune in to Evan Kleiman’s Good Food. But for smart entertainment around town, here are my suggestions of good art exhibitions that I liked enough to go back for seconds.

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”Samurai: Japanese Armor”
Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller
Exhibition at LACMA
Exhibition runs through February 1, 2015

The "Samurai" exhibition at LACMA gives a splendid presentation of the Japanese armor worn by Samurai from the 12th to the 19th century. The gallery is flooded with dramatic red light, and the Samurai warriors are charging right at you. This vicious army of soldiers looks extremely intimidating, and all of them are dressed to kill.

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Doris Duke with friends, Waikiki, 1935-1937
“Doris Duke’s Shangri La”
LA Municipal Gallery at Barnsdall Park
Exhibition runs through December 28, 2014

LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park is hosting a travelling exhibition, "Doris Duke’s Shangri La," which tells the story of tobacco heiress, the "Richest Girl in the World," and her passion for collecting Islamic artworks. The exhibition features various objects from her collection, as well as numerous photographs of the young heiress and her friends ––all having a grand ol’ time in Shangri La, her resplendent five-acre estate in Honolulu.

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(L) “Andy Warhol: Shadows”
Exhibition at MOCA
Exhibition runs through February 15, 2015
(R) Walt Disney Concert Hall
Downtown Los Angeles
Photographs Edward Goldman

Andy Warhol’s Shadows at MOCA is a miracle of the transformation of the mundane photograph of a shadow in a corner of his New York Factory, transformed into 102 large-scale paintings shown side by side in one uninterrupted line that hugs the walls of the museum’s galleries. Visually, it creates an equivalent of the syncopated rhythm of a jazz player tap tapping away. And as you leave MOCA, take a look at the glistening, metallic waves of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall.

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(L) Alison Saar speaking about her work
(L figure) “Foison,” 2011
Carved wood clad in green patina copper sheet with cast bronze cotton balls and moths and acrylic paint
(R figure) “Fallow,” 2012
Wood, paint, bronze, ceiling tin, mirror
Exhibition runs through January 11, 2015
(R) Watts Towers, Simon Rodia
Los Angeles
Photographs Edward Goldman

Not many artists can show their work next to Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers and not be dwarfed by his vision. Alison Saar took her chances with a solo exhibition at Noah Purifoy Gallery –– part of Watts Towers Arts Center –– and proved that her art not only holds its own, but also fosters a conversation with the famous towers. Saar’s artworks show her ability to work with the most humble of materials and create figurative images with references to Greek, African, and Native American mythologies.

The exhibition of Czech photographer Josef Koudelka at the Getty Museum evokes the memory of the Cold War. The crash of Prague Spring by Soviet forces in 1968 is undeniably one of the most painful memories of the war, and Koudelka –– with camera in hand –– was in the very midst of the conflict documenting the devastating occupation.

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(Top L) Josef Koudelka, “Prague,” 1968
Gelatin silver print
Exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum
(Top R) Josef Koudelka, “Prague,” negative 1968
Gelatin silver print. Exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum
Exhibition runs through March 22, 2015
(Bottom) Peter Paul Rubens, “The Triumph of Divine Love,
1625-1626 (detail)
Oil on panel
Exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum Exhibition runs through January 11, 2015

Nobody and nothing stand still in the universe created by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640), the most successful European artist of the 17th century. His gorgeous bodies –– draped or naked –– are engaged in the most dramatic whirlwinds of movement. The exhibition, "Spectacular Rubens" at the Getty Museum, is a rare opportunity to see his small paintings next to huge, intricately woven tapestries, for which these paintings were used as sketches.

Another attention-grabbing exhibition in Los Angeles right now is LACMA’s, " Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s ." It consists of 250 film clips, photographs, posters, documents, and movie cameras –– all of them exhibited in a delightfully spooky manner, with gallery walls refusing to stand still.

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(Top) “Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s”
Exhibition at LACMA
Exhibition runs through April 26, 2015
(Bottom) Archibald Motley. “Tongues” (Holy Rollers), 1929 (detail)
Exhibition runs through February 1, 2015
Photographs Edward Goldman

And while you’re at LACMA, be sure to make your way to the top floor of Broad Pavilion, where you’ll hear the smooth, seductive sounds of jazz, and see the nightclub scenes that capture the irresistible spirit and high energy of the Harlem Renaissance. All that is thanks to the exhibition, "Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist," which surveys his career and his contribution to African American culture during the Jazz Age.

Enjoy your Holidays!