Some compellingly gritty vintage artworks hang in a cavernous West Adams space and an artist mines acronyms and emoticons for all they're worth in Koreatown.
5. Video changes everything
Art historian Gavin Butt's documentary This Is Not a Dream treats video art as thrillingly inspirational, something of a lifeline for artists who didn't know how else to communicate and distribute their experience of the world. It has allowed them to reach wider audiences, take from the mainstream (like Dara Birnbaum, who used TV footage of Wonder Woman) or even invade the mainstream (like Kalup Linzy, who ended up on General Hospital). Butt's film screens at the Hammer. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Wstwd.; Wednesday, April 23. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
4. Self-portrait as a tree
You'd have to stay for a while to see all the work in "Veils," the show Ariana Papademetropoulos and Jhordan Dahl curated at the Underground Museum on Washington Boulevard, and you still may lose track of the show's fairly sprawling theme: it's about what artists conceal, or "veil," and what they reveal. But it's worth staying, because some of the art, especially the historical work, is fantastic: a self-portrait that singular, occult-enmeshed Marjorie Cameron probably made in the 1950s or 1960s, of herself as a tree; a burned and battered head made by L.A. icons Chris Burden and Jeffrey Vallance in the 1970s; and Vallance's imprints of clown makeup on a handkerchief from 1992. 3508 W. Washington Blvd., West Adams; through May 22. theunderground-museum.com.
3. Tell-all acronyms
Colorful hanging blankets with acronyms on them hang at angles or lay on mattress-high surfaces at Commonwealth & Council. Riot Grrrl originator Jen Smith made these, trying to condense difficult-to-articulate emotions into stand-ins, such as the overused "LOL." You have to navigate her blankets to get to the room-sized box artist Nicolas Grenier installed in the same gallery space. When you walk inside, you're confronted with a trio of highly systematic, orange and green paintings. Informed by urban planning and color coding, they look like graphics from a well-designed environmental report, and they nicely complement Smith's very different attempt to make a popular language work for her. 3006 W. Seventh St., Koreatown; through April 26. (213) 703-9077, commonwealthandcouncil.com.
2. Pretty decaying things
The show at Ghebaly Gallery, curated by the co-owners of Ramiken Crucible in New York, is called "Depression." The best work in it is flawed, decaying, nostalgic and attractive because of it. Andra Ursuta's crate-sized Lucian looks like a leaning, half-burned building and has an open, miniature, beige gas can inside. Gavin Kenyon's Pimpin', a hunan-sized figure with a rooster head, wearing cowboy boots and an 18th-century uniform, looks like a figure from Grimm's Fairy Tales that spent a few decades in a thrift store. 2245 E. Washington Blvd., dwntwn.; through May 10. (310) 280-0777, ghebaly.com.
1. Skater girl sculpture
The Armory Center for the Art's main gallery space has a weird, closetlike corridor that's difficult to use, though curators seem determined to use it. Right now, one small painting by Mary Weatherford, just a purplish mound of color on a white canvas, hangs on the closet's back wall. It's spotlighted, which makes it feel precious in an endearing way. The show it's in, called "Caught Looking," features a handful of women who have taught at the Armory and also includes life-sized female figures by Ruby Neri. Sort of like skater girl takes on Giacometti, these women have lanky bodies, thick hair, and their hands behind their heads as if protecting themselves during an air raid. Because there's no attempt at perfection in Neri's treatment of her materials, or in any of the other artists', the show has an appealing unpretentiousness. 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; through June 8. (626) 792-5101, armoryarts.org.
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