An Artist Puts a Dark Spin on "Jack and the Beanstalk"

Sean Shim-Boyle's Fur (2016)
Sean Shim-Boyle's Fur (2016)
Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires

This week, popsicles melt in West Adams, staining gallery walls, and an artist mines the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale in Hollywood.

Getting away with it
The golden egg in the center of Various Small Fires' outdoor courtyard has the word “thief” engraved on its surface. Artist Sean Shim-Boyle made it to reference to the golden egg that Jack of the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk," stole from the giant in the clouds. All of Shim-Boyle’s show riffs on Jack’s story. There’s a cow made of wood and felt, and the “Harp That Plays Itself” is a rubber hose plugged into the ceiling that dangles and dances, aided by a compressor. Wood letters, like the kind nursery schools have, spell out “fee fi fo fum” over and over again. The show’s mood is lightly rebellious and together the sculptures feel like the trappings of a theme park that’s irresistible to children but not actually child-safe. 812 North Highland Ave., Hollywood; through May 21. (310) 426-8040, vsf.la. 

Sweet-smelling mess
Jesse Robinson built wall-hanging popsicle holders for “Melt,” his show at Ms. Barber’s. The popsicles fit perfectly into their white, lumpy casings at first, and then, as they start to melt, colorful, brightly dyed drips and drops roll down the wall. “It's excruciating. The natural response, the impulse to lick the drips, is overwhelming,” reads Robinson’s statement. Visitors can find their own popsicles to lick in coolers in the middle of the gallery, sculpted on the inside so that bars have to be fished out of narrow, oddly shaped holes. On opening night, the drumstick wouldn’t melt, or at least no ice cream escaped from its impenetrable chocolate shell. 5370 W. Adams Blvd., West Adams; through May 28. msbarbers.com

Her own muse
Artist-writer Penny Slinger graduated from the Chelsea College of Art in London in 1969, around which time she decided “that, as an artist and as a woman, I would be my own muse.” Her body and image often do appear in her sensual, eerie collage work. She created The Secret Dakini Oracle Deck: A Tantric Divination Deck with collaborator Nik Douglas and, in 1979 — the year she moved to the West Indies — she and Douglas co-wrote Sexual Secrets, an illustrated guide to sex and mysticism. It sold more than a million copies. By the time Blum & Poe started exhibiting her work a few years ago, Slinger had established herself in other vibrant niches. Slinger, who lives in Los Angeles now, will appear at the Women's Center for Creative Work this weekend to talk about her life. 2425 Glover Place, Cypress Park; Sun., May 15, 1-4 p.m.; $25. womenscenterforcreativework.com. 

Thick, black protest piece
In 1968, right after Martin Luther King's assassination, artist William T. Wiley started wrapping black tape around and around itself, making a black orb, which he placed on a pedestal and titled Movement to Black Ball Violence. It was a literal act, and a memorable one. Wally Hedrick’s show at the Box is all black and anti-violence too. His War Room, which the gallery has shown before, consists of eight bolted-together 11-foot canvases. You enter through a door and then are surrounded by thick black paint on all sides. The black paintings hanging outside War Room have, in some cases, been painted over three times, once in protest of Vietnam, once in protest of the Gulf War and once against Iraq. Their black surfaces bulge and look scarred and clumpy in places. It’s hard to resist the urge to touch them. 805 Traction Ave., downtown; through June 11. (213) 625-1747, theboxla.com. 

Grandpa's beauty supplies
Harald Szeemann, perhaps the first globe-trotting cult curator, had an innovative Swiss hairdresser for a grandfather. When the Getty Research Institute acquired Szeemann’s archive in 2011, it also acquired objects associated with a show Szeemann did in 1972, a year after his grandfather’s death. He called it "Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us," and thematically organized his grandfather’s effects as if organizing contemporary artworks. Artist Melissa Huddleston, who works at the Getty, did small, delicate renderings of items from the archive for her show “The Beautician” at LACA. She painted antique scissors, makeup pads and an iron, meditating on the trappings of beauty that influenced an art star. 2245 E. Washington Blvd., downtown; through May 14. (213) 935-0740, lacarchive.com.  

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