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

Ericka Beckman's The Forge Bucket and Chain Prop (1985)
Ericka Beckman's The Forge Bucket and Chain Prop (1985)
Courtesy of Cherry and Martin, Photo by Brian Forrest

This week, an old-school L.A. artist grapples with the reality-TV aesthetic in Hollywood and Cinderella tries to escape the fairy tale in a Culver City exhibition. 

Temple of the dog
Matt Wardell’s current exhibition at Baik Art, called "EYE-DEE-QUE (Something Like an Asclepeion)," is supposed to loosely resemble a temple of healing. An Asclepeion, named after Greek god Asclepius, was an ancient Greek shrine to healing, where dogs were taught to lick the wounds of ailing visitors. Dogs will be welcome in Wardell’s shrine — which looks more like the bedroom of a psychedelic rocker — for two hours this weekend. People with wounds, emotional or physical, are welcome too. The event is something of an experiment: to see who comes, and to see whether and how improvisational dog licking can work in this context. 2600 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City; Sat., Feb. 6, 2-4 p.m. (310) 842-3892, baikart.com

Curtains over street lights 
Narrow, mural-lined Winston Street stretches across three blocks of downtown Los Angeles. Essentially it’s an alley, but it's also where Sister Sylvia May Cresswell, aka the queen of Skid Row, ran a “soul patrol” center to rehabilitate alcoholic vets after WWII. The street looks fairly run of the mill in Kori Newkirk’s photographs — or it would if Newkirk hadn’t used silver streamers to make a traffic light look like a party's about to break out in the middle of the road. These photos hang in a back gallery of Newkirk’s current show at Roberts and Tilton. Rows of bike wheels with mix CDs and other dated disks crammed between their spokes line the main gallery. Again, familiar, unsung things become full and fancy. 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City; through Feb. 6. (323) 549-0223, robertsandtilton.com

Photographer with access
I was in a gallery that represents photographer Catherine Opie’s work a few years ago, when Opie came up and asked for the keys to the back room because she wanted to show some friends something. The gallery assistant handed over the keys, because why wouldn’t you trust Opie? She's responsible, respectful, relatively famous and equipped with a great, skilled eye, so it’s not surprising that Elizabeth Taylor let the photographer into her home during the last days of the actress's life. Opie’s photographs of Taylor’s home are on view at MOCA’s PDC space now, and they’re very nice: the actress’s closets, her art, her family pictures, her quaint kitchen. They don’t reveal anything unexpected. It’s just one sensitive artist with a sense of beauty exploring a different kind of artist’s sense of beauty. 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; through May 8. (310) 289-5223, moca.org. 

Human behavior
William Leavitt's new film, Behavior, debuts at LAX Art this week. It's a Truman Show–type situation, set in one of the strange, sculptural installations the artist has been making since the 1960s. He’s been working with TV-style scripts and thinking about scripted reality since the 1960s too, grappling with issues that artists much younger than he are grappling with now. It’s like he saw the reality-show era coming from a few decades away. In this film, two roommates named Seth and Diana are the central characters, at least at first. Then the film branches out to include other clusters of people — it'll likely feel uncanny and mundane at the same time. 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs., Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.; RSVP required. (323) 871-4140, laxart.org

Forget the prince
Ericka Beckman’s Cinderella cannot get the prince. She keeps trying — bouncing back and forth from a dirty hearth to a formal ballroom, running home before midnight, trying to drop her shoe just right — until, toward the end of Beckman’s 30-minute video, she starts to realize the game is rigged. The prince, too, is just playing his part. There’s no room for improvisation. Cinderella (1986) plays on a loop in Beckman’s exhibition at Cherry and Martin, projected in a room that includes impressive, imposing set pieces originally used in the filming. The video is a musical, in which Cinderella (Gigi Kalweit) lip-synchs to a rock-pop soundtrack. She has a power she’s still tentative about, as she cleans up cinders, then magically transforms into a green-haired, loudly dressed ‘80s party girl. You want her to not just beat the game but destroy it. 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City; through March 12. (310) 559-0100, cherryandmartin.com

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