5 Free Art Shows You Should See in L.A. This Week

Alma Allen's Not Yet Titled (2014) (which has the same name as a number of other words in the show, including the one mentioned below)EXPAND
Alma Allen's Not Yet Titled (2014) (which has the same name as a number of other words in the show, including the one mentioned below)
Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe

One artist makes an invisible sculpture that doesn't need to be handled with care, and another artist makes beautiful, impressive objects that, if you really look, are actually pretty odd.

5. It's back
Michael Hayden, the artist responsible for those mind-bending, interweaving tubes of neon above the moving walkway in Chicago O’Hare Airport’s United terminal, built a neon sculpture for downtown Los Angeles in 1981. The sculpture, a series of circles called Generators of the Cylinder, hung above the International Jewelry Center’s Hill Street walkway until it went dark about a decade ago. Then, two weeks ago, Hayden’s sculpture was relit during a ceremony. It’s not spectacular, exactly, but it has a back-to-the-future kind of grooviness. 550 S. Hill St., dwntwn.; ongoing. (213) 977-1600, crala.org.

4. When ashtrays were still in lobbies
The newly opened Vacancy is in what used to be a Koreatown hotel lobby, and the best parts of “Everything Speaks Twice,” its inaugural group show, mimic that former function. Tanya Brodsky’s column that could double as an ashtray or her resin screen that mimics the shape of the concierge window fit that bill. And more hotels should have flooring as busy and involved as the latex-on-canvas one Bailey Hikawa installed. 2524½ James M. Wood Blvd., Koreatown; through March 5. vacancyla.com

3. Mother superior
Artist Jonas Becker’s mother helped her sew piles of scarlet-colored stuffed figures, cutting the fabric and working while sitting on a chair in a Michigan field. When Becker’s mother finished one figure, some of which vaguely resemble gingerbread men, she would put it in a pile in front of green, growing cornstalks. Becker filmed this process and, even if you’re walking by the Craft and Folk Art Museum after hours, you can see the footage playing against the lobby wall between two ceiling-high piles of hand-sewn red shapes. 5814 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; through May 3. (323) 937-4230, cafam.org

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2. Tiny heart-shaped chairs
It’s so rare that you want to take a press release home and tape it to the refrigerator, but the one for Al Payne’s show at the Box is like that. It’s warming when it describes how, not long before his death, Payne conceived of an “invisible sculpture,” a crate that no one would see inside. The crate has labels on it describing how “it is to be abused and not treated well,” not treated as “fragile” like so many other crates with sculptures in them. But the most affecting work in the show is not mentioned in the release at all: a grouping of child-sized folding chairs with white hearts for backs, roughly painted in primary colors. Some sit on the floor, one hangs on the wall amidst paintings of the same heart-backed chairs. Most have painted cardboard boxes on them. Together, they’re like a flawed, hopeful family, all packed up with nowhere to go. 805 Traction Ave., dwntwn.; through March 7. (213) 625-1747, theboxla.com

1. Better to be interesting
When you walk into Blum & Poe and see the sculptures Alma Allan made out of heavy slabs of walnut or travertine or bronze, you’ll likely be impressed first by the weight and smoothness of each object. But impressed isn’t the same as interested. You have to stare at each for a little while and start taking in its details before you really start to enjoy the show for its personality. There’s one bronze sculpture, titled Not Yet Titled, that looks like a gnarly rat sticking out its tongue. 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through Feb. 28. (310) 836-2062, blumandpoe.com


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