Caris Reid, The Empress (2017)
Caris Reid, The Empress (2017)
Courtesy the artist and Ochi Projects

5 Free Art Shows to See in L.A. This Week

This week, a longtime L.A. artist remakes a Mozart opera with the help of teen musicians, and a Swedish artist spends time with pigeons and ducks.

Warrior women
The woman in Caris Reid’s painting Mourning Dove looks more like icon than person. She has a purple dove over her eyes like a mask and a beige one on the crown of her head. A third, smaller dove floats on her chest — her whole body is covered in symbols. Another portrait, The Empress, is of a barely smiling woman with precisely rendered stars in her hair and keys drawn onto her shoulders. Two pomegranates float above her. None of the women depicted in Reid’s show at Ochi Projects, called "Healer. Feeler. Seer. Seen.," look happy, exactly. They instead look intent, as if on a mission. They recall novelist Monique Wittig’s “elles,” female hippie warriors who have “let down their hair” and banded together to overthrow the patriarchal state. 3301 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights; through May 21. (323) 641-7177, ochiprojects.com.

Bird watching
Swedish artist Klara Lidén's work often resembles grungy, slightly surreal construction site. At the Serpentine Gallery in 2011, Liden, who trained as an architect, stuffed all the contents of her Stockholm apartment into a single doorway. She’s used cardboard boxes as walls a few times. Her current installation at House of Gaga//Reena Spaulings near MacArthur Park looks unfinished and underwhelming at first. Shabby boards, partly painted and with graffiti on them, divide the gallery space (a board stands outside on the roof, too). One video projected on a gallery wall shows ducks and a shopping cart in the nearby lake. Another shows a pigeon that stays still on the sidewalk as the prohibitive beeping from a “Do not walk” sign plays out, wandering away lackadaisically only after the sound ceases. Being surrounded by the mundanity and quiet moodiness of Lidén's installation makes gazing out the windows at the park across the way unusually pleasant — even trash on grass looks slightly more interesting than usual. 2228 W. Seventh St., 2nd floor (entrance on South Grand View Street), Westlake; through May 6. (213) 908-5033, gagareena.com.

Mozart redux with teenagers
Absolut Vodka gave L.A.-based Frances Stark its Absolut Art Award two years ago after she proposed to use the funds to make an opera in collaboration with a rapper. “I envision something really fresh and funny and dirty, but smart,” she told Interview in 2015. Stark’s The Magic Flute, an adaptation of the Mozart opera in which a handsome prince and a bird catcher team up to rescue a princess, isn’t a collaboration with rapper DJ Quick, as she’d initially hoped. Instead, it’s a collaboration with a producer who once belonged to a doo-wop group (H.B. Barnum) and a German conductor (Danko Drusko). A youth orchestra plays the revised and updated score; when Stark put out a call for musicians, she specified they must be between 10 and 19 years old. There is no singing but animated, rewritten lyrics appear as subtitles on-screen. In the past, the appeal of Stark’s video work has been its quirky combination of high-mindedness, pop culture references and self-absorption. We’ll see how her film opera contributes to her oeuvre when debuts at LACMA this weekend. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Fri., April 28, 7 p.m.; free with RSVP. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.

Under the light of the moons
For "Polaroid Black," its current group show, Big Pictures Los Angeles painted a wall black and then hung dark paintings across it, salon-style. Daniel Newman’s Clown IV (2017) is all shades of dark gray, with the exception of a somber clown's hazel eyes and big, orange, round-ish nose. Mark Thomas Gibson painted a mostly black ghost in flight. Laurie Nye’s Infinity Girls is among the few all-in-color works. In it, stylized women with flowing hair hold on to shapes and creatures, including butterflies with thick wings. A circle floating above them would pass for the moon if there weren’t so many similar circles all around. They seem to be in an environment entirely their own, which doesn’t conform to gravity. 2424 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights; through May 27. (323) 800-7670, bigpictures.la.

Mirror image
For three nights a week during April, performance artist Lev Abramoff has stood naked in front of a mirror at PAM, the Highland Park performance space where Abramoff is artist-in-residence. His struggle with body image and cultural standards for what bodies should look like prompted his performance. “My intention was to cure myself, to see myself as you see me,” Abramoff wrote in his project statement. This weekend, as his residency ends, he will perform Body Pressure for small audiences. These performances will begin just like his previous sessions did: with him standing naked looking in the mirror, but now he will be responding in real time to his audience and to the feeling of being watched. 5810½ N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; Fri.-Sat., April 29-30, 8:30 p.m.; $5-$10. pamresidencies.com.

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