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Art Attack

From oceanside to the airport—and La Jolla in between—we present summer’s sizzling, must-see exhibits.

Horizon, a joint exhibit with Quint and the Murals of La Jolla, features work by emerging artists hand-picked by heavyweights and muralists like John Baldessari, whose “Brain/Cloud (with Seascape and Palm Tree)” is shown here.

San Diego’s art scene always heats up in the summer, when a surge of tourists—and locals exploring the city’s cultural offerings with renewed vigor—practically guarantees gangbusters attendance at local museums. And they’re not the only source for a dose of visual delight. From an inside-pick gallery show to a new arrival at the airport, consider this your arts to-do list for the season.

A new body of work by internationally acclaimed artist James Drake is a marquee draw at MCASD downtown. In 2012, Drake committed himself to drawing every day, whether a quick sketch or intimate study. James Drake: Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash) features the resulting 1,242 drawings, which riff on visual and thematic motifs that the Santa Fe-based artist has explored over his four-decade multimedia career. Drake, whose long list of accolades includes major awards and stints at the Whitney and Venice biennials, examines humanity in all its glory and darkness, with a particularly close focus on border issues. His drawings reflect his encyclopedic artist’s brain, featuring everything from scientific formulas and wild animals to human figures historical and imagined.

Our city is a leader in science and tech, so it’s no surprise that some of the hottest local artists consider the subjects a muse (think Kelsey Brookes’ microbiology-inspired paintings or Adam Belt’s obsession with space and time). The San Diego International Airport is going straight to the source with Taking Art to the Cellular Level, a new exhibition featuring blown-up microscopic visuals from top regional biomedical researchers like Scripps, UC San Diego and Salk. You’ll be amazed at how even the smallest components of life can look like art.

At MCASD La Jolla, where contemporary art and epic ocean views collide, artist Tim Youd will sit in a gallery and type out Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye on a single sheet of paper backed by a second. When he’s clacked out his final punctuation mark, the two pages—a positive and negative image—will be displayed as a sculptural diptych. Part of Youd’s “100 Novels” project, the location was chosen for its proximity to Chandler’s onetime La Jolla home. (Bonus: watching the faces of children transfixed by the noisy, archaic technology.)

Also on display through the end of August at MCASD will be selections from the Tamayo Museum in Mexico City. The major show will feature art never before seen in San Diego—from pieces by Bacon and Picasso to works by the late Rufino Tamayo, whose private collection of contemporary art features more than 300 works, many by very famous names.

And for culture vultures who prefer their art scene with a bit of see-and-be-seen, the museum is bringing back its summertime Shore Thing, a monthly party in the sculpture garden replete with museum tours and cocktails.

Meanwhile, Quint Gallery is going La Jolla meta with Horizon. The gallery asked more than a dozen boldface artists formerly and currently involved with Murals of La Jolla to hand-pick an emerging or underappreciated artist for a group show. Murals of La Jolla—which was started by the La Jolla Community Foundation and is now run by the Athenaeum, another neighborhood arts stalwart—has already made contemporary art more accessible by introducing the public to the likes of Robert Irwin, Ryan McGinness and John Baldessari, just a few of the buzz-worthy artists who have created large-scale temporary murals on buildings around downtown La Jolla. Now those success stories—many of them locally based and represented by Quint—are turning the spotlight on up-and-comers like Joseph Huppert, James Enos and Jessica McCambly, who couldn’t ask for a better introduction to Quint’s devoted base of collectors. Don’t forget your checkbook.

Up at the Oceanside Museum of Art, another group of San Diego artists is getting its due. Spitting in the Wind: Art From the End of the Line celebrates the close friendship of artists Richard Allen Morris, Baldessari, Bob Matheny and the late Russell Baldwin, and the body of cutting-edge work they made in the ’50s and ’60s. The title, lifted from a quote by Baldessari, speaks to the challenges of creating unconventional art in San Diego, then a largely conservative Navy town. They stuck it out with the rest of the tiny contemporary scene, eventually helping to build a vibrant community. Curated by local midcentury-modern expert Dave Hampton, the show includes period works from each artist along with related artifacts.