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

Karin Gulbran's "Splendor in the Grass"
Karin Gulbran's "Splendor in the Grass"
Courtesy China Art Objects, Photograph by Josh White

Catch two shows before they close in Culver City this weekend — one of which features a pool-obsessed man in a cat suit — and visit a downtown maze of clowns.

Clown corridors
New walls were built to accommodate the many clown paintings currently hanging at 356 S. Mission Road. Close together and angled, these walls make you feel you're walking down tight corridors in a circus museum. The paintings, in aged-looking frames, all purportedly come from a private collection (whenever the collector isn't named, you wonder if s/he really exists — certainly, collectors have been fabricated before). There are candy canes, cone hats, ruffled collars, red noses and every other property you might imagine in these paintings, all of which show the clowns head on. 356 S. Mission Road, downtown; through Dec. 24. (323) 609-3162, 356mission.com

Object lust
Near the old, majestic theaters on Hill Street, design shop Austere has high ceilings and chic concrete floors. It’s been hosting showcases since it opened in 2014, and the newest one, “Site Specific,” features artists who double as designers and vice versa. Tanya Aguiñiga’s woven hangings crawl down walls behind rudimentary wood benches by Shin Okuda. Ben Madansky’s ceramic sculptures function as containers — stick plants or pens into his latticed cubes. Like many in-store exhibitions, this one is meant to trigger object lust rather than careful thinking. 912 S. Hill St., downtown; through Feb. 14. (844) 287-8373, austere.co

Cheshire pool cat
The swimming pools of Los Angeles may become too clichéd a trope, but it hasn’t happened yet. “The Cat,” a character in one of Jen DeNike’s new videos at Anat Egbi, wears a candy-striped onesie with a cat mask as he loiters in iconic backyard pools. DeNike titled her exhibition “If She Hollers,” a play on the name of Chester Himes’ entrancing novel about a black man in WWII Los Angeles, frustrated by the city’s insidious racism and smooth façades. The cat seems frustrated, too — he’s certainly not swimming for leisure, as a poolside wrestling match with his alter ego implies. 2660 La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through Dec. 19. (310) 838–2770, anatebgi.com

Flashy like Street Fighter
Aaron Curry’s new paintings at David Kordansky Gallery look as if they should be hanging in a chic remake of a ‘90s arcade. They’re not quite grimy enough for a real arcade, but they have the palette of the Street Fighter games and a graphic flashiness reminiscent of Star Wars Trilogy. Shaped canvases stack on top of one another, cut into distinct shapes — sharp-edged arcs and octagons over a larger volcano-like pyramid, for instance. This has always been Curry’s thing: assembling his works one unconventional piece at a time. But in the past, he’s often achieved a neomodern sense of control. These, even if intentionally rendered, feel nostalgic in a much lighter, kitschier way. The shift is refreshing. 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Mid-City; through Jan. 16. (323) 935-3030, davidkordanskygallery.com

Funny fairy tales
The pots in “Splendor in the Grass,” Karin Gulbran’s exhibition of ceramics at China Art Objects, all have straightforward titles, for instance Pigs in the Woods and Fish Bowl. On her pots, pigs do play in woods and a cat falls down in the rain. The animals have elongated limbs and googly eyes and the pots themselves are clumpy; the imperfection is clearly intentional, but it's also not beautiful in the controlled way modernist design objects often are. The sweet messiness of Gulbran’s show recalls novelist Michael Cunningham’s recent retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story, in which a conniving hobgoblin with an inferiority complex manages to be endearing. 6086 Comey Ave., Culver City; through Dec. 19. (323) 965-2264, chinaartobjects.com

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