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

A view of Ed Bereal's sculpture
A view of Ed Bereal's sculpture
Courtesy of the artist and Harmony Murphy Gallery

This week, an artist cuts a gaping new window into a museum lobby's wall, and another artist lectures on the strange abductions of five Tujunga Canyon women. 

Aliens in the Valley
Betty and Barney Hill reported their alien abduction to officials at Pearson Air Force Base in September 1961. They didn’t remember being abducted exactly, just seeing an object they believed to be a UFO coming closer and closer until their minds went numb, and beeping and buzzing sounds lolled them into an odd, otherworldly state. The next morning, they found inexplicable concentric circles etched into the trunk of their car. As part of "The Eyes Are Always There," artist Joe Merrell will discuss the Hill abduction and show a 1972 made-for-TV movie about it at Machine Project this weekend. He’ll be joined by Winona Bechtel, who will tell the story of five Tujunga women who claim to have been abducted between 1950 and 1970. They were paralyzed by blinding light or summoned by thin white entities. 1200-D N. Alvarado, Echo Park; Sun., March 6, 7 p.m. (213) 483-8761, machineproject.com

Dreaming in public
Friendly Plastic and photograms made from dream images are among the materials Katie Grinnan used for her sculptural installation at LAXART. Enter-Face, the show’s centerpiece, is a bright assemblage of familiar and unfamiliar things that spreads out like a web across the main gallery. Video screens embedded in car headrests, propped up by steel stands, show “loose re-enactments” of Grinnan’s dreams (in one, she’s running along the beach). Odds and ends are scattered around the floor. The combination of things doesn’t look messy, though. It has its own internal logic, as so many dreams do. 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through March 26. (323) 871-4140, laxart.org

Lady Liberty might be dead
Pull Your Coat, the satirical game show Ed Bereal produced in the 1980s with his Bodacious TV collaborators, plays in the back corner of "Disturbing the Peace," his show at Harmony Murphy Gallery. The contestants are all caricatures: the strict, churchgoing lady in a fantastic hat; the man in whiteface with a high-pitched voice; the woman with Donna Summer hair. They answer racially and politically charged questions, sometimes failing miserably. The whole thing has a shrill energy; it’s funny but also not. That energy carries through the rest of the show, where the artist's recent work hangs on walls and extends across the floor. This work is louder, brighter and more plastic than the sculptural work for which the formerly L.A.-based artist became known in the 1960s (the show does include some memorable older work as well). Condoleezza Rice has skeleton hands in one drawing. A ghoulish Lady Liberty, made of light-beige cloth, pushes a cart filled with a Teddy bear and African-American plush dolls, one of which has a rifle.  358 E. Second St., downtown; through April 2. (646) 286-5647, harmonymurphygallery.com

High-class war zone
A black plastic bag hangs on the wall at London-based artist Fiona Banner’s current show at 1301PE. “Mistah Kurtz — he not dead,” it says in gold lettering. It’s a stylish-looking twist on the moment in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, when a messenger boy in the Congo announces of the brutal colonist and ivory trader named Kurtz, “He dead.” On the wall adjacent to the bag, a slideshow offers glimpses of London’s financial world. Banner did not take these images herself. Instead, she commissioned photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin, who has done work in the Congo, to photograph London’s financial district as if it was a war zone. From the resulting images, Banner and Pellegrin also made a magazine with the gloss and weight of Vogue’s September issue, but with gloomy text sourced from Heart of Darkness. It’s anxiety-producing to see highly produced glamour butting up against a narrative about the terrors of colonization. If Mistah Kurtz isn’t dead, has he since returned to London to run the banking industry while drinking Champagne? 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; through April 9. (323) 938-5822, 1301pe.com

Hole in the wall
Sculptor Oscar Tuazon cut a hole through the wall in the Hammer Museum’s lobby gallery, and then attached a large aluminum pipe to it. The circular pipe, probably a little over six feet wide, extends out to the building's glass exterior, so that you can walk right up to the outside and people outside can look in. It’s a gesture that required some dramatic maneuvering (sawing through wood and drywall), but it ultimately reads as simple. “A window that you can walk through” is what Tuazon calls it in a short video about the project. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; through May 15. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu. 


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