This week, painted fantasies of jungle animals hang in Beverly Hills, and an artist explores the complexities of seeking asylum in a Los Feliz performance.
Sharon Ellis’ paintings must be seen in person. In photographs, you could easily mistake them for psychedelic digital creations, impressive but not handmade. In person, it’s still difficult to believe they’re hand-painted with layer upon layer of translucent paint, since details are so precise and even idiosyncrasies seem planned. Ellis’ current show at Christopher Grimes Gallery, called “Intimate Terrain,” includes paintings of fireflies at twilight, a red-and-blue fire burning in front of a glowing sky, and a bouquet growing heavenward during a supernatural desert sunset. The scenes all have a magical quality, the colors and details as vivid as they might be if the viewer was on LSD. The magic makes Ellis’ flawless technique seem aspirational, as if she’s constructed a fantasy so carefully that it has to come true. 916 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica; through Jan. 7. (310) 587-3373, cgrimes.com.
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Monsters in empty rooms
To debut its new building on the busy corner of La Brea and Edgewood Place, once home to Futon City, ltd Los Angeles has put on a group show called “forward,” full of work by artists who have and will work with the gallery. The first room has a messy, bodily vibe. A well-dressed figure in an ornate gorilla mask and platform shoes, made by Raul de Nieves, lounges on a pedestal in the room’s center. Paintings surround the figure, including two of Gerald Davis’ Princess paintings, in which feminine faces and bodies become visible amidst swirls and slashes of pink, blue and red. Upstairs, in a video screening room adjacent to the office, a trio of films plays. In Marian Tubbs’ Contemporary Monsters, animated, amorphous masks made of gel and pigment haunt perfectly designed modern homes and minimal lofts, moving through these spaces like drones charged with inspecting and disrupting domestic order. 1119 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-Wilshire; through Jan. 14. (323) 378-6842, ltdlosangeles.com.
Portland, Oregon-based artist Blair Saxon-Hill constructed a protester for her current show at JOAN, using a rusty metal chair, flattened and misshapen but still standing, and holding a faded flag. There’s no doubt that the protester, weathered and dogged, will keep on keeping on, rain or shine. Every sculpture in Saxon-Hill’s show, called “to no ending except ourselves,” consists of salvaged material. A wall-hanging woman has one breast, a photographed right arm resting on her cloth hip and a tube and hanger standing in for her left arm. These figures, all a bit defiant, make up a scrappy army that seems to be fighting normalcy and complacency more than anything else. 4300 W. Jefferson Blvd., #1, West Adams; through Jan. 29. (323) 641-0454, joanlosangeles.org.
Trying to stay
This weekend at Barnsdall Park, artist and writer Gelare Khoshgozaran, who works in L.A. but was born and raised in Tehran, will collaborate with dancer taisha paggett on a performance called UNdocumentary. During the performance, Khoshgozaran will read aloud a document she wrote, declaration for seeking asylum in the U.S. As she reads, a video projected behind her will show panoramic images of Tehran, all of them sourced from Google+. In the past, when she has done versions of this performance, Khoshgozaran has invited audience members up to read her declaration aloud for her and has distributed copies of the I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, the document asylum seekers must file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It's a way to grapple with the complexities and limitations of the process that determines who can safely stay here. 4800 Hollywood Blvd., East Hollywood; Fri., Dec. 16, 6 p.m. (323) 644-6269, lamag.org.
Animals in the apartment
An elephant rides a turtle and a Komodo dragon lurks in an ethereal, pastel-colored landscape in Zurich-based artist Urban Zellweger’s current show, "Where am I Reptile," at Karma L.A. Zellweger’s paintings of nature, romantic and subtly absurd, hang alongside a few paintings of domestic settings: a record player and a wrap-around couch in a carpeted room, or an urban window. One painting depicts a green couch with an ambiguous mammal swimming beside it, a literal take on creature comforts. 9615 Brighton Way #426, Beverly Hills; through Dec. 31. (323) 688-9778, karmainternational.org.