Like summer group shows, holiday group shows are hit-and-miss. But two good ones are up right now, one in Inglewood and one downtown, and both mix barely heard-of artists with those who have been around.
5. MOCA Gala Revisited
Talk still hasn't died down about the MOCA gala last month, where performance-art matron Marina Abramovic orchestrated live human centerpieces and naked lady cakes in the shapes of herself and co-performer Debbie Harry, and required that all guests wear white lab coats. When choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer called out Abramovic for exploiting performers, debate ensued. Was the gala justified? Unethical? Bad art? Curator-artist Dino Dinco has organized a last-minute panel at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions to discuss all this. Jennifer Doyle, who has written about Andy Warhol, Edith Wharton and David Beckham, will participate, as will some performers who worked the gala. 6522 Hollywood Blvd.; Sat., Dec. 17, 1-4 p.m. (323) 957-1777, welcometolace.org.
4. Christmas Monster
Chinatown wants to be L.A.'s Christmas shopping destination this year. The boxy Christmas tree is up in the central plaza, and the area has been airing radio ads on KCRW. Maybe because of all this holiday cheer in Chi-town, I can't help but see Elizabeth Higgins O'Connor's gargantuan wood and fabric sculptures, on view in "Dreadful Sorry Clementine" at Charlie James Gallery, as creatures that would be perfect in a DIY version of The Nutcracker. The show's definitely kid-friendly. 975 Chung King Road; through Jan. 7. (213) 687-0844, cjamesgallery.com.
3. Book-Sized Rabble-Rousing
2nd Cannons Press is artist Brian Kennon's solo enterprise. The books he publishes, made by him and other artists, feel like miniature, self-contained exhibitions. They often represent the work of other now-canonical artists, straddling the line between homage and critique. Or sometimes they act as crass inside jokes meant for people who follow the art world enough to know the big names, like All the Cindy Shermans I'd Like to Fuck, a compilation of the hottest self-portraits by the overexposed but truly brilliant performance artist. A tiny, closet-sized 2nd Cannons bookshop recently opened at ltd Los Angeles in Hollywood and will be there for the foreseeable future. 7561 W. Sunset Blvd., #103; through summer 2012. (323) 378-6842, ltdlosangeles.com.
2. Hope Chests and Horses
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Like a lot of Pacific Standard Time shows, Cirrus Gallery's "Once Emerging, Now Emerging" includes an overwhelming amount of art. But it has an addictive energy. It pools the work of artists starting out in the '60s and '70s and artists starting now. The installations, videos, drawings and sculptures -- including a headless horse that whispers "horse" out of a sound box in its throat, and a resin hope chest that doubles as a humidifier -- feel equally slapdash and renegade, which makes a good argument against nostalgia for L.A. of past eras. 542 S. Alameda St., dwntwn.; through Jan. 7. (213) 680-3473, cirrusgallery.com.
1. Not Too Shabby
Recycling for the sake of art is nothing new, but the art in "The Loop," a show at the Beacon Arts Building of work made of cast-off material, feels precise and intentional. It's not at all moralistic or about excess or detritus. Instead, it's about being responsible without being limited. William Ransom's experiments with wood shavings and clamps and Don Suggs' towers of colorful plastic are among the highlights. 808 N. La Brea Ave., Inglewood; through Jan. 15. (310) 419-4077, beaconartsbuilding.com.