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Two just-opened art exhibits showcase the work of powerfully influential women who trained their keen focus on L.A. and the film industry, while a retrospective look at the oeuvre of South African artist William Kentridge opens Nov. 12 at The Broad.
Joan Didion: What She Means Hammer Museum, Westwood
Like Joan Didion herself, this new show paying homage to the famed Slouching Towards Bethlehem writer is the perfect blend of East and West coasts. Curated by her friend and mentee, New Yorker writer and critic Hilton Als, to reflect her interests and inspirations, the show tracks the places Didion lived and visited (Berkeley, Hawaii, Miami, El Salvador). Works such as Betye Saar’s 1966 assemblage View From the Palmist Window and Ed Ruscha’s 1966 photo series Every Building on the Sunset Strip join photos and archival materials, including a film poster for 1976’s A Star Is Born, for which Didion and husband John Gregory Dunne wrote the screenplay.
“She had a really well-developed sense of irony but also a practicality,” Als says of his friend, who died in 2021. Both he and Didion split their time between New York and L.A.; the latter is where she wrote The White Album, a collection of classic essays about California. “Her advice suited you,” adds Als. “It was never misguided in information or encouragement. She was a very practical person.” Joan Didion: What She Means runs through Feb. 19 at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Cindy Sherman: 1977-1982 Hauser & Wirth, DTLA
The entire set of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills presented together for the first time since MoMA’s 2012 retrospective is an art lover’s dream. Sherman was just a kid when she drove around with then-boyfriend artist Robert Longo and costumed herself according to depictions of women in popular culture. The result is a seminal series that launched her career and changed art’s relationship to the camera.
Also included in Hauser & Wirth’s show, first seen in New York, are Sherman’s Rear Screen Projections, a similar series of film stills shot in color in her home studio using projected backdrops. That studio became a mainstay of her practice, in which the photographer usually works alone with props and costumes culled from thrift shops. The results are also seen her 1981 series Centerfolds, which is exactly what it sounds like, but with Sherman fully clothed in contemplative poses. Cindy Sherman: 1977-1982 runs through Jan. 8 at Hauser & Wirth, 901 E. 3rd St.
William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows The Broad, DTLA
This 35-year career survey, William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows, includes over 130 works from the celebrated South African artist’s practice exploring his home country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Multi-media artworks include charcoal drawings, animated films, prints, bronze sculptures, tapestries and theater models.
Also on view is the video short, The Refusal of Time, about colonization and European standardization of time. Anchoring the exhibit is a piece the artist refers to as the “elephant,” a giant breathing apparatus with rhythmic moving bellows. In addition to a series of films examining early cinema, Kentridge’s 11 Drawings for Projection will be on view.
The exhibition — which runs Nov. 12 through Apr. 9 (221 S. Grand Ave.) — also marks the premiere of the performance piece, Houseboy, a production of the Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg directed by Kentridge. Based on the 1956 novel by Cameroonian diplomat Ferdinand Oyono, it explores themes of history and memory as well as post-colonial identity. Catch it at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles, Nov. 17-20.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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