This week, a wooden roller coaster becomes a stage in Chinatown and David Hockney chain smokes in a 16-millimeter movie.
Oblivious by a bonfire
Eleanor Swordy titled her exhibition at Moskowitz Bayse “Who Died?”; if someone did die, it’s possible the figures in Swordy’s paintings wouldn’t notice. They’re all engrossed in their own sometimes mundane, sometimes exotic activities. In Auriga Rising, a group of figures resembling midcentury modern sculptures lounges by an exuberant fire. In Domen, a figure perches behind rocks with binoculars, and in The Jeweler, a nude woman sits on a pillow in a rustic living room, tinkering with tools laid out inside a light box. Crayons and paper lie on the floor behind her. All Swordy’s figures have a soft, floppy quality, as if they’re flesh and no bones, and her paintings conjure slightly unreal, cartoonish spaces, in which normal rules of gravity don’t quite apply. 743 N. La Brea Ave., Fairfax; through June 17. (323) 790-4882, moskowitzbayse.com.
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Smoking in the grass
Downstairs at 1301PE, actress Sylvia Kristel holds a cigarette in a 16mm film that's being projected on a wall. Smoke rises against the lush yard in which she’s standing. Artist Manon de Boer filmed Kristel, who died in 2012, in the Hollywood Hills in the early 2000s. The footage is quiet and the actress stoic. Upstairs, another 16-millimeter film plays. This time, it’s iconic painter David Hockney who holds a cigarette and quietly smokes in his studio. Sometimes he laughs. Tacita Dean filmed him just last year and, over the course of 16 minutes, we see him smoke five cigarettes. This show, called “The last beautiful pleasure,” marks 1301PE’s 25th anniversary and drips with nostalgia — for a time when too many of us still found chainsmoking romantic. 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Carthay; through June 24. (323) 938-5822, 1301pe.com.
Out there, it's bananas
The gray and silver wallpaper covering the temporary wall that currently bisects Skibum MacArthur’s new Frogtown space looks normal enough from across the room. But up close, it’s essentially an angstily poetic message board, the stripes on the paper interspersed with all-caps wordplay: “Out there it's bananas,” “In here it’s great,” “In here it’s grapes.” The wall is all together one work by Christina Quarles, adapted to fit the Skibum space perfectly, and populated by loosely figurative paintings as well as hyperreal experiments. A painting of a taped-up piece of white paper looks real, as if you could just reach out and rip it off the wall. A painting that appears to be on stretched canvas (in fact, it’s painted right onto the wall, the sense of dimension an optical illusion) depicts two bodies in a vaguely erotic tangle. “And I Can’t Even Cause It Isn’t Even,” says text along the image’s bottom edge. It’s hard to tell what’s what in this work, which seems to be exactly the point. 1989 Blake Ave., Elysian Valley; through June 10. skibummacarthur.net.
Chasing a chess piece
In Maya Deren’s film At Land (1944), a woman emerges from the ocean, climbs onto a piece of driftwood and ends up at a banquet table. She crawls down the table, though the other dinner guests barely notice, then ends up at a chess game. She begins to play, moving pieces just by looking at them. She tries to grab a piece at one point, but it escapes her and so she chases it out across various landscapes. The 14-minute film screens at the Norton Simon along with a selection of others by Deren, an experimental filmmaker who settled in Los Angeles briefly in the 1940s. The screening coincides with the museum’s exhibition about the eccentric and under-known dealer Galka Scheyer, whom Deren knew well. 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Fri., June 9, 6 p.m.; free with museum admission. (626) 449-6840, nortonsimon.org.
Last year, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, artist EJ Hill built a 41-foot-long frame for a makeshift roller coaster, and called it A Monumental Offering of Potential Energy. Laced in neon and lit in glowing purple light, the roller coaster had a platform at one end. Hill laid down on this, facedown, each day that it was installed at the museum, only rising at the end of the day to go home. Now, the platform has been remade and reinstalled at Human Resources in Chinatown. He calls this new version A Subsequent Offering, and this weekend, a group of artists — including laub, Elliot Reed and Maria Maea — will take to the platform for Subsequent Performances, performing in their own ways. 410 Cottage Home St., Chinatown; Fri., June 9, 9-11 p.m. (on display through June 18); donations welcome. (213) 290-4752, humanresourcesla.com.