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5 Artsy Things to Do in L.A. This Week, Including Playground Clapping Games

Mike Kelley's Black Out (2001) installation at MOCA
Mike Kelley's Black Out (2001) installation at MOCA
Courtesy MOCA

A few great artists talk about a shared friend in Little Tokyo, and visceral paintings of hamburgers, muscle men and soccer players steal a show downtown. 

5. Play your sign
A few years ago, artist Katie Grinnan built a group of instruments that look like a cross between timpani drums, handmade baskets and star charts. There are nine, one for each planet in the solar system, each designed according to astrological signs and intended to be played by people of those signs. It sounds complicated, but the experience of watching isn't. It's more like happening upon a drum circle where the players are all still new to each other, slightly awkward but totally sincere. The instruments and footage of past performances have been on view at Human Resources since April 24, and the final performance happens in the gallery this weekend. 410 Cottage Home St., Chinatown; Sunday, May 4, 4 p.m. (213) 290-4752; humanresourcesla.com

4. Clapping game
Composer Steve Reich has this great story about Clapping Music, his iconic 1972 score, which requires only performers with hands to clap. He'd played a concert in Brussels, and a promoter asked if he wanted to go hear some flamenco afterward. The prospect of Belgian flamenco music intrigued him. But the performers were awful, at least until they stopped with their guitars and singing and started clapping. They were good at that, confident and compelling, which gave Reich his clapping-only composition idea. Musician Nick Tamburro will lead a performance of Clapping Music at Machine Project's "Hold Your Applause" event this weekend. That same night, writer Kate Wolf will talk about clapping's history and ethnomusicologist Carol Merrill-Mirsky will teach attendees a playground clapping game. 1200-D N. Alvarado, Echo Park; Friday, May 2, 8 p.m. (213) 483-8761, machineproject.com.

3. Upside down on horseback
Meleko Mokgosi's photographic scenes from post-colonial Africa, painted in oil on raw canvas, can sometimes be so stately and well-proportioned that you take their weirdness for granted. That's why the best moments in Mokgosi's new show at Honor Fraser are the ones where images collide and pile up: a choir singing in black robes against a black background, butting up against an upside-down man in a tux and a soldier on a horse, and an also upside-down, all-but-naked man in a tribal headdress. In such collisions, the figures, each self-contained and beautifully rendered, seem as unable to unravel the weird story they're caught up in as we are. 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through July 27. (310) 837-0191, honorfraser.com.

2. Soccer fingers
In Gina Beavers' painting Moving the ball down the field (2013), an arm the exact color of the blue sky behind it protrudes from the canvas just enough that you can see its outline. Four fingers turn into the legs of two little soccer players wearing brightly colored uniforms, and a thumb becomes a player's arm. It's the sort of painting that makes you do a double take, and like all of Beavers' works in "Cogwheels Carved in Wood," the show curated by writer Jonathan Griffin at Night Gallery, it's comically unwieldy. 2276 E. 16th St., dwntwn.; Saturday, April 19, 7-10 p.m.; runs thru May 17. (650) 384-5448, nightgallery.ca.

1. Friends of the artist
Artists Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley remade the novel Heidi as a frightening, existential, sexed-up, filmed puppet show in 1992. Painter John Miller interviewed Kelley for BOMB magazine in 1991, talking to him about whether "art-things" could "escape the evils of capitalism." Jim Shaw, now an L.A.-based sculptor and painter of quaint, warped dreamscapes, started the punk band Destroy All Monsters with Kelley in Detroit in 1973. These collaborators and friends of the late Kelley are not at all pretentious or overly heady in the way they talk about him, and all will participate in a symposium about the artist's singular influence this weekend, coinciding with MOCA's must-see Kelley show. 111 N. Central Ave., dwntwn.; Sat., May 3, 11 a.m. (213) 626-6222, moca.org.

See also: Our review of the Mike Kelley exhibit


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