Provocative Art Shows to Put in Your Calendar Right Now

Three California exhibitions we wouldn’t dare miss



Up Close and Personal
Napa Valley Museum Yountville has debuted the first U.S. museum exhibition of artwork by actor Lucy Liu. Focused on her wood sculptures and on oversized paintings inspired by shunga — a form of erotic art based on the ukiyoe, or Japanese woodblock — the show, entitled “Lucy Liu: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others,” provides visitors with a first-of-its-kind look into the artist’s body of deeply personal creations. “I’m so happy to collaborate with the Napa Valley Museum and to share my work with the community,” Liu says. “Art has been an important part of my life and development since I was a child.” Also included in the exhibition are selections from her “Totem” series — including 41, which features intricately embroidered spines and patterns crafted using fabric, paper and thread — as well as her silkscreens and pieces from her found object series, the latter of which sees books combined with cast-aside items to become works of art. Don’t miss the video presentations that shed light on Liu’s silkscreen methods, artistic influences and creative processes. Feb. 1-April 26. Napa Valley Museum Yountville, 55 Presidents Circle, Yountville, 707-944-0500.



Shock Factor
Artist Paul McCarthy’s performance, video and sculptural work is infamously provocative (see, for example, his 2014 installation at Paris’ Place Vendôme, a sculpture that was interpreted both as a Christmas tree and a butt plug, depending on the perspective). This season, the Hammer Museum presents the first comprehensive U.S. survey of the L.A.-based rebel’s works on paper, titled “Paul McCarthy: Head Space, Drawings 1963-2019.” Nearly 600 pieces explore themes of violence, humor, death, sex and politics via characters culled from Hollywood, fairy tales and soap operas, with works in traditional charcoal, graphite, ink and marker — not to mention ketchup and peanut butter. Despite the playfulness of his oeuvre, the consummate and accomplished draftsman (who taught art history at UCLA for nearly 20 years) is known to rely on a sophisticated daily drawing practice to flesh out his brilliantly complex — if a bit naughty — ideas. Feb. 2-May 10. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 310-443-7000.



Frida’s Bay Break
At the age of 23, Frida Kahlo left her native Mexico for the first time to live in San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. It was during that formative sojourn in the Bay Area that Kahlo began proudly promoting her indigenous Mexican heritage to the world through her self-portraiture and personal style. “The gringas really like me a lot and take notice of all the dresses and rebozos that I brought with me,” she wrote to her parents. Ninety years later, the artist is being celebrated in the very city that gave rise to her signature folkloric, autobiographical mode with “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving” at the de Young Museum, an exhibit that explores Kahlo’s identity and creative influences through her paintings, personal possessions and photographs. March 21-July 26. De Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., S.F., 415-750-3600.



Feature image: “41,” 2010, by LUCY LIU.


Feb. 19, 2020

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