Eleanor Swordy’s Night Museum (2010-2016)
Eleanor Swordy’s Night Museum (2010-2016)
Courtesy of the artist and Full Haus

5 Free Art Shows to See in L.A. This Week

This week, two artists bring their purposefully uncomfortable mother/daughter act to Barnsdall Park, and another artist repurposes a Transformers tent bed.

Hair in the kitchen
A chiseled figure that looks as if it could be made of marble lounges across Eleanor Swordy's painting Night Museum. The figure faces a wall of paintings, messy works in cartoonish red frames (this "well-muscled beau is a model of viewership," reads the press release, cheekily). The lighting is dramatic, though it doesn't quite make sense — is that angled triangle of yellow coming from outside? Or from an open door? Swordy's painting hangs at Full Haus, a gallery inside an apartment designed by Rudolph Schindler. His architecture makes perfect sense for minimal living — rectangular windows, a pull-down bed. Her paintings toy with space in subtly non-sensible ways: A painting of a photographically rendered faucet also includes a counter too thin and depthless to be real. In the kitchen, Barak Zemer plays with space in a different way. The light box he's installed against the main window features a composite photo of skin and dark hair: arm hair, leg hair, etc. It's unsettling seeing skin and hair above the kitchen sink, but the flesh tones nicely match the room's neutrality. 2042 Griffith Park Blvd., Silver Lake; through Feb. 25. fullhaus.biz.

Mother plays the biggest critic
The day that "Ours Is a City of Writers" opened at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, artists Young Joon Kwak and Kim Ye performed their own kind of criticism. Ye was the overbearing mother, Kwak the put upon daughter. Both were glammed up in high, high heels and dramatic makeup. Ye wheeled a baby carriage, and though Kwak (larger than her mother) rarely sat in it, its presence made it seem that the child hovered somewhere between infant and adolescent. Mother wanted daughter to understand that art could be a good way to climb the social ladder — perhaps Kwak could find a husband at the opening. She poked at the work, explaining it or mocking it. She also wanted the daughter to know that she could be an artist, too: talent as path to prestige. Ye prompted Kwak to mimic some drawings in a side gallery, pulling out a marker and paper pad. They also spent time in a video gallery, critiquing footage of a performance they'd done together last November ("I'm prettier than her, right?" Ye asked, looking at her own image). Like theirs, all the works in the exhibition are collaborative, chosen via an exquisite-corpse approach: An invited artist invites another artist or writer, and the whole thing becomes a group effort. 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; through March 26. (323) 644-6269, lamag.org.

Safety in the night
Artist Kathryn O'Halloran had a Transformers bed tent growing up. Her brother gave it to her, and sleeping inside it made her feel safe. Now, the tent sits on a white pedestal at Harmony Murphy Gallery, its insides covered in gold leaf. It's a charming and silly object, one that conjures a childhood sense of security while marrying pop-cultural obsession with precious craftwork. Other objects in the show strike a playful balance between pop, safety and preciousness, too. In the entryway, the heads of three Styrofoam mannequins sit on faux-fancy pedestals. Each wears a regal but functional headdress. Headwear for Night is a translucent neon-green veil with heavy-duty headlamps attached to the front. 358 E. Second St., downtown; through March 11. harmonymurphygallery.com.

Ravaged library in a clean lobby
Among the best things about Edgar Arceneaux's Library of Black Lies is how its rough, wooden frame contrasts its surroundings. Installed in a historic home in Paris last year, its intentional ruggedness attractively contradicted its decorative environs. At the Main Museum downtown, where the Library currently lives among the columns of a high-ceilinged 1920s lobby, the structure tempers the clean, tasteful ambition of the rehabbed space. It's dark inside, and the books are dark too, many blackened and some altered. Illustrated versions of the Bible accompany versions of Ed Guerrero's Framing Blackness, tweaked by the artist to encompass a larger range of nonwhite skin tones. 114 W. Fourth St., downtown; through March 26. (213) 986-8500, themainmuseum.org.

Too many eyes
Alfredo Jaar spent six years on the Rwanda Project, trying as an artist to represent immeasurable tragedy. "Basically, when we say, '1 million dead,' it’s meaningless," Jaar told Art21 in 2007. The project included, among its many parts, an installation called The Eyes of Gutete Emerita. Slides of the eyes of one witness to the genocide were piled high on a light table, an attempt to reduce a massacre to a single person's relatable experience. Jaar, whose work appears in the Getty's new show about artists and the news, will speak at the museum Thursday. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood; Thu., Feb. 23, 7-8:30 p.m.; free (reservations suggested). (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.

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