This week, vintage cars fill a downtown gallery and a man who believes he's Hitler features in a dark group show.
Venus Over Los Angeles’ current show is called "Piston Head II," and it’s full of artist-altered cars. The show is kind of like a personality test and, if you’re an art buff, it’s fun to guess which artist tweaked which automobile. You’ll pick out pop artist Kenny Scharf’s cartoonish Pontiac Grand Ville right away; its pink shark fins have big grins and wide eyes. Jonas Wood, the L.A. artist who’s bookish in a flat, cool way, covered a Volvo wagon in tiger stripes. There are cages inside of the big, old bus that Sterling Ruby painted, leaving graffiti visible between dark matte paint. But I won’t give it all away. 601 S. Anderson St., downtown; through Sept. 10. (323) 980-9000, venusovermanhattan.com.
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Artist Alban Muja’s video Germans Are a Bit Scared of Me features a man who claims he’s Hitler, walking around his Kosovo hometown with that notorious mustache on his face. The alleged Hitler charges 40 euros for a photo but otherwise seems mostly affable. Muja’s video appears in the current group exhibition at Nicodim Gallery. Curated by Aaron Moulton, the show references darkness, vampires and deviance at every turn and sounds somewhat like a seedy dance club when all the videos are playing at once. The short looping film by Church of Euthanasia shows porn footage beside images of the World Trade Center towers falling down (among other pairings). Max Hooper Schneider made five figures, some with worms encased inside their resin bodes. One lies on the ground on top of AstroTurf and inside a coffin-shaped Plexiglas box. Live worms crawl over his naked, orange-colored body. Moulton’s press release suggests the show, full of its monsters, has a political relevance in this election season: “Which Bogeyman will you vote for?” he asks. 571 S. Anderson St., Ste. 2, downtown; through Aug. 20. nicodimgallery.com.
Artist Patrick Shearn’s Liquid Shard, his new installation above Pershing Square, is a kinetic sculpture, which sounds high-tech, but the piece reads as delightfully low-tech in person. Shearn attached silver Mylar streamers to a wire armature, and the ribbons of silver undulate above the heads of park goers, looking like an especially large, precarious party decoration that could easily blow away. 532 S. Olive St., downtown. laparks.org/pershingsquare.
The Streisand Effect got its name in 2003, when singer-actress Barbra Streisand tried to suppress photos of her Malibu residence. Her suppression attempt only led to more attention. Artist Dena Yago is interested in what happens when information is disseminated or popularized for wrong, or unintended, reasons. Yago, whose paintings appear in the Hammer’s "Made in L.A." biennial, will talk about such phenomena with designer and shop owner Rachel Berks. Last year, Berks started selling a shirt that said, “The Future Is Female” at her L.A. boutique Otherwild. Fashion model Cara Delevingne subsequently appeared in a T-shirt with the same message and design, and then announced plans to sell the shirt for charity. Berks design had been inspired by a 1970s design, so who owns which images? When is something considered appropriation? And how does celebrity involvement change, or corrupt, an idea? Berks and Yago will be joined in conversation by a third collaborator, Sean Monahan. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Thu., Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
Oscar the Grouch with a telephone
Barry Johnston’s show at Overduin & Co., “Our Fertile Hand,” includes a grate shaped like a large book; big black columns chained to the ceiling because they’re too thin to stand on their own; and an army of silver chalices on a wood pallet. A black telephone dangles from a cord attached to the ceiling, almost reaching to the floor. Sesame Street's trash-can denizen Oscar the Grouch appears near the back of the second gallery. The show is delicately absurd, like a poem written by a painfully observant person who can’t see why any one observation should take precedence over another. 6693 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; through Aug. 20. (323) 464-3600, overduinandco.com.