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

A still image from Nao Bustamante's new video, Soldadera
A still image from Nao Bustamante's new video, Soldadera
Courtesy of the artist and Vincent Price Art Museum

Music-making revolutionaries wander around in East L.A., an artist lines up factory sewing machines in a downtown gallery and there's a chandelier in a fish tank in Culver City. 

5. Aggressively casual
Jim Drain’s new paintings, on view in a show called "Seems/Seams" at Various Small Fires, work well in groups. Hung at staggered heights, they make up an uneven terrain of variously sized squares covered in sometimes-muddy paint, torn paper or strips of layered fabric. Alone, each one might be too boxy and casual, but together, they feel rebellious, dead set against polish. 812 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood; through June 6. (310) 426-8040, vsf.la

4. The oldest revolutionary
The night Nao Bustamante’s exhibition "Soldadera" opens at the Vincent Price Art Museum, troubadours will be wandering around, making music and wearing the same period costumes the performers in Bustamante’s video installation do. The Soldadera were women who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and most of the work in Bustamante’s show — including the film and a series of sculptures — is loosely inspired by her trek to Mexico to meet the last surviving female revolutionary, a woman named Leandra Becerra Lumbreras. When she passed away in March, Lumbreras was reportedly 127. 1301 Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park; performance May 16, 4-6 p.m., on view through Aug. 1. (323) 265-8841, vincentpriceartmuseum.org

3. Birthday shenanigans 
The fish tank that L.A. artist Pae White and gallery co-founder Steve Hanson made in 1999 is the only artwork in China Art Objects’ “Sweet Sixteen” exhibition that was made the year the gallery opened. It has three stories and a cute yellow chandelier, reminiscent of bigger chandeliers White has made over the years, waving back an forth in the water. You have to pass by the fish tank on your way into the rest of the show, where most of the work by artists on the gallery’s roster is newer, flip and sensuous. Billy Childish painted a very big bison and Eric Wesley knocked two nearly identical waist-high holes into the wall — Ass Holes, he calls them. 6086 Comey Ave., Culver City; through May 30. (323) 965-2264, chinaartobjects.com.

A view of Patricia Fernandez's work at Commonwealth and Council
A view of Patricia Fernandez's work at Commonwealth and Council
Photo by Heather Rasmussen

2. Factory artist
There’s a Jesus magnet on one of the vintage sewing machines artist Anthony Lepore installed in Ghebaly Gallery as part of his “Bikini Factory” show. The machines all come from an actual Bikini Factory in Lincoln Heights, passed down from Lepore’s grandfather to his father. Lepore has had a modestly sized studio in the still functioning factory since 2012, and all the work in his current show was made there and also responds to the bikini factory experience. One photograph shows a shimmering expanse of lycra with ribbon-holding hands poking through it. Other images document factory workers’ quirkily personalized chairs. 2245 E Washington Blvd., downtown; through June 6. (323) 282-5187, ghebaly.com

1. Family history the hard way
Over the past three years, artist Patricia Fernandez, who lives in L.A. but was born in Spain, took five walks through the Pyrenees mountains that separate Spain from France. She was retracing routes her own relatives took at the end of the 1930s, after the Spanish Civil War, when they, like so many other defeated Republicans, trekked off. Along the way, Fernandez collected souvenirs, documents and photographs that she then recreated as paintings, drawings or objects. She also invented artifacts based on her own memory or sensory experiences. Walking through her show at Commonwealth and Council is like opening up a grandmother’s trunk and finding that everything in it, even documents related to the harshest memories, has been tenderly, painstakingly handmade then carefully arranged. 3006 W. 7th St., #220, Koreatown; through May 23. (213) 703-9077, commonwealthandcouncil.com


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