Art Picks: Beautiful Garbage Cans and the Longest Album Ever

The audience during a Therre Thaemlitz performance
The audience during a Therre Thaemlitz performance
Courtesy of the artist

A longtime L.A. artist explores personal history, psychology and the realities of racism in a sometimes psychedelic way, and a New York artist enlists L.A. actors to help her "search for a character." 

5. A dancing digital saint, and other possibilities
In the 1980s, artist Rebecca Allen developed a dancing, computer-generated character to play the role of St. Catherine in a film by choreographer Twyla Tharp. In the 1990s, Allen did a series of video game-like installations called The Bush Soul, where participants’ “souls” would enter bushes pictured in digital 3-D projections. (Intel backed this project.) She helped design the One Laptop Per Child project in 2007. So she’s been grappling with new technology for a while. She’ll talk with Scott Fisher, founder of USC’s Interactive Media Division, about what artists can really do with virtual reality. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Thu., Jan. 22, 7 pm. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.

4. Look at the beautiful garbage can
Artist Eduardo Guerra had a teacher who was very interested in recycling. This teacher would take his students out onto the streets of Havana and say things like, “Look at that beautiful garbage can.” Now Guerra marvels at the beauty garbage cans, too. “Cuban people are always recycling,” he says in the new film Alumbrones, about 11 Havana-based artists. The film, at Arena Cinema this week, is slow — a lot of footage shows artists talking while working — but it gives a fascinating glimpse into the regionalism that a difficult environment can foster. Each artist seems intensely aware of the daily effects of Cuba’s political and economic situation. “We have many problems,” says artist Isolina Limonta. “That’s why Cubans are so creative. Find a Cuban and you’ll see.” 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Jan. 16-22. (323) 306-0676, arenascreen.com

3. Longest album ever, excerpted
Sound artist Therre Thaemlitz’s album Soulnessless lasts for 32 hours and includes five cantos with politically charged but open-ended titles: The first is Rosary Novena to Gender Transitioning, the last Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album. The music that I've heard has a haunting, sometimes cinematic quality and includes sounds from nature and religious ceremonies. Thaemlitz will share a short slideshow about the making of Soulnessless and then perform for 80 minutes in an installation of photographs by artist Tiger Munson. 410 Cottage Home St., Chinatown; Mon., Jan. 19, 8 p.m.; $10-$15. (213) 290-4752, humanresourcesla.com.

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2. Getting the lines right
To make her film Searching for a Character, artist Chelsea Knight traveled across the country by car, using Craigslist to find actors in different cities to perform monologues. The actors would choose what to perform on camera and Knight might interrupt them as they acted, because she's interested in that space between "in character" and "out of character." She asked one guy to do jumping jacks and then push-ups while he tried to perform a monologue about the few guarantees in life, which resulted in some awkward pauses and heavy breaths. She'll revisit the project in the temporary bar installed by artist Meghan Gordon in ltd. Los Angeles’ office, inviting L.A. actors to perform monologues and try to stay in character. 7561 W. Sunset Blvd., Suite 103, Hlywd.; Sat., Jan. 17, 6-8 p.m. (323) 378-6842, ltdlosangeles.com.

1. Listen while you work
Music by the composer Sun Ra plays in Mark Steven Greenfield’s show at the California African American Museum, partly because Greenfield listens to music while working. The whole show feels tied to Greenfield’s L.A. life. His grandmother makes an appearance in a wall-hanging assemblage, and he made his Gangs series when working with Crenshaw youth in the early 1990s. A silhouette of a gun-wielding boy might appear in the middle of an ornate mandala. He also dug into the history of minstrelsy in a series of angry portraits. But there are some guttural abstractions, too. Gemini, one of the first paintings you see when you enter the galleries, shows two vague figures with tumultuous worlds inside their heads. Colors bleed into one another and the figures might be kissing. 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; through July 5. (213) 744-7432, caamuseum.org


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