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

Fruit Salad, a mural by artist Katherine Bernhardt
Fruit Salad, a mural by artist Katherine Bernhardt
Courtesy of Venus Over Manhattan

A miniature horse spends just a few more days in a Hollywood storefront that's been turned into a faux dining room, and a film that once made Salvador Dali livid screens in a downtown basement.

Hammerhead interlude
The exterior of Venus Over Los Angeles, the new West Coast satellite of Venus Over Manhattan gallery, was painted all Pepto-Bismol pink before last week. Now the side of the building is a sunny mural by New York artist Katherine Bernhardt called Fruit Salad — toucans, fat bananas and flattened cigarettes float across the wall. There’s also an out-of-place interlude in which hammerhead sharks swim around inside a blue rectangle. Especially given the formal-looking grayness of the gallery’s New York headquarters, the mural feels like a comic embodiment of an East Coast stereotype: L.A. as la-la land. 601 S. Anderson St., downtown; ongoing. (323) 980-9000, venusovermanhattan.com

The absent-minded artist
In formal museum settings, sometimes it can be too easy to overlook the playfulness of William Kentridge, the South African artist who makes animations out of his nostalgic charcoal drawings. Thankfully, Underground Museum, currently showing three Kentridge films as part of a collaboration with MOCA, is not a formal museum setting. It’s a medium-sized alt space run out of a West Adams storefront. Right now, all the walls are painted pitch black and there is a bench in front of the film Journey to the Moon, in which Kentridge depicts himself as an absent-minded artist, meditating on the cosmos and remembering an absent lover who keeps sneaking up behind him. Without moving from that bench in front of Journey, you can turn to watch the two other films: the series of short vignettes projected along the far wall and the animated drawing of meandering ants projected in the front room. The view feels panoramic and intimate at the same time, especially if you’re there alone in the quiet. 3508 W. Washington Blvd., West Adams; through Nov. 15. (323) 989-9925, theunderground-museum.com

Painting a horse
Artist Joe Sola does not typically do abstract painting. When he decided to try, he made sure everything was just right: He had to find the perfect, specific surface to paint on and ensure his painting would be displayed in ideal circumstances. He chose a miniature horse named Riba as his canvas, and, safely, with the help of a trainer, gave her mane and hair a purple, pink and orange geometric pattern. Then, with the help of an interior designer, he turned Tif Sigfrids’ gallery into a slightly gauche but expensive-looking designer dining room. It has paintings by other L.A. artists — Sayre Gomez, Matt Chambers — on the walls and woven carpeting on the floor. During open hours, the gallery becomes Riba's stable, which is funny given that galleries are sometime referred to as having "stables" of artists. When you pet her, dye rubs off on your hand. This is the last weekend to visit Riba; appointments are recommended. 1507 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood; through Aug. 8. (323) 907-9200, tifsigfrids.com.

View of A Painted Horse by Joe SolaEXPAND
View of A Painted Horse by Joe Sola
Courtesy Tif Sigfrids, Photo by Gina Clyne Photography

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Art as personality test
You can touch or use nearly everything in Aki Sasamoto’s exhibition at Harmony Murphy Gallery, called “No Choice.” Fold a shirt on a high counter, and then find out, based on your folding approach, whether you prefer youth to oldness. Sit on any one of a series of stools and you’ll hear a buzz. Open a stand-alone door with a horse tail on it and you’re probably prideful, although if you choose to open the sheep's wool door, you maybe have more humility in your heart. Yet for all that interactivity, the video in a small partitioned-off corner is perhaps the most arresting part of the show. You see Sasamoto bartending haphazardly, moving beer cans around on shelves or sweeping, as the bar’s back wall slowly inches forward. Eventually, she'll climb through a trap door in the moving wall and say "go away," as the wall pushes everything off her shelves. 679 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown; through Aug. 22. (213) 265-7066, harmonymurphygallery.com

Hallucination plagiarist
Artist Cecile B. Evans’ computer-animated film, Self-Plagiarized Study for Lover One, is a slippery fantasy set in some kind of semi-urban war zone. Though she doesn’t actually speak, a computer-generated woman’s pretty, grave face always appears midscreen. She seems to be guiding us through deserts and a dilapidated shopping mall. Dialogue appears written out, superimposed over the scenery: “Where are the others?” “There were others.” The film, hallucinatory and compelling, is in a group show at Chateau Shatto that was inspired by a 1936 film by Joseph Cornell. The film, Rose Hobart, screens in the gallery's basement. Apparently, iconic surrealist Salvador Dali claimed that Cornell plucked the idea for this film from Dali's unconscious mind, accusing Cornell of a seemingly impossible plagiarism. 406 W. Pico Blvd., downtown; through Aug. 29. (213) 973-5327, chateaushatto.com

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