There's a lot of lighthearted painting this week, and an attempt to turn a historical house museum into something slightly less set in its ways.
Steve Hurd’s photorealistic, up-close paintings of open mouths of cats are the hardest part of his Rosamund Felsen exhibition to get out of your head. The cats are aggressive and whiny in the way only cats can be, and Hurd made them look pixelated and used pastel-ish, Instagram-worthy colors. So they also have that annoying, got-it-off-the-Internet feel. 2525 Michigan Ave. B4, Santa Monica; through Oct. 11. (310) 828-8488, rosamundfelsen.com.
4. Black-light stalagmites
Lily Simonson does serious research for her paintings. She studies specimens or goes on expeditions (she’s on her way back to Antarctica this fall). But her paintings, like the ones in her "On Ice" exhibition at CB1, don’t necessarily read as scientific. They read as intuitive, painterly explorations of what rock forms, icicles and iciness feel and look like. They're the kind of things you just like. And the way the main gallery is black-lit and her paintings glow seems to shrug off the gravitas of both art and science. 207 W. Fifth St., dwntwn.; through Oct. 26. (213) 806-7889, cb1gallery.com.
3. Ending the static
“We’ve interpreted this as a static work of art, traditionally,” is what director Ted Bosley says of the Gamble House, built in Pasadena in 1909 and designed by Charles and Henry Greene for the Gambles of Procter & Gamble fame. So it was definitely out of the ordinary to have the Echo Park–based Machine Project install the contemporary art that will be in the house through Oct. 5. It will be more out of the ordinary this weekend, when a rotating lineup of academics and other kinds of thinkers wear pajamas and take turns having conversations in the two guest beds on the ground floor or dancer Nick Duran channels falling water in the stairwell. 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena; (626) 793-3334, machineproject.com/gamblehouse.
2. Pages and pages of psychics
The night Lisa Anne Auerbach’s “Spells” opened at Gavlak Gallery, two girls in yellow shirts and white gloves were charged with turning the pages of the 5-foot-tall American Magazines the artist had laid out on white tables. One magazine features photos and descriptions of churches; another features photos of psychics' storefronts. In both books, signage, the way churches and psychics announce themselves, is a big deal. It’s also a big deal in the sweater paintings, linen canvases that Auerbach has knitted into with wool. They pull together slogans and insults (“Embrace Uncertainty, “Eat the Rich,” “Go Fuck Yourself”). That these generic messages have been labored over, or blown way out of proportion, makes spending real time with them seem worth it. 1034 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd.; through Oct. 18. (323) 467-5700, gavlakgallery.com.
1. Flat-out funny
The objects Katherine Bernhardt depicts in her quite large paintings at China Art Objects are so flat that they start to look more like letters, or symbols in a secret code. Probably, given the quirkiness of the flattened-out cigarettes and messiness of the Coke cans, they’re code for joke telling. A leaning cigarette might mean "Raise your voice here.' A long one with drips means "Draw out your syllables and adopt a weepy tone." 6086 Comey Ave., Culver City; through Oct. 18. (323) 965-2264, chinaartobjects.com.
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