This week, an artist invites people to reach into the styrofoam box over her breasts and another artist and his friends dress up as a living car wash.
Candy-colored plastics and a living car wash
A group of people in strange costumes mill around a parking lot, and you don’t know what’s going on until a VW bug rolls in and the costumed people, including the man in white foam, begin to rub it down with their bodies. They’re a living car wash, working in slow motion. Footage of this performance, staged by artist Joe Ray, plays in a side gallery at Diane Rosenstein. Across the hall hang black and white photographs of performances Ray and his peers did near Venice Beach in the 1970s, including their spoof of the macho artist stereotypes, in which they posed shirtless with a motorcycle. This performance documentation coexists with his smooth, perfect resin works — Two Arcs and Half-Sphere from 1969 looks like tri-colored candy — and Ray's 1980s paintings of constellations. The show thrills because it’s so materially diverse, reminding us in our hyper-professional moment that having one consistent “style” is not necessarily a virtue. 831 Highland Ave., Hollywood; through Aug. 5. (323) 462-2790, dianerosenstein.com.
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Artist Valie Export held a watch when she performed Touch Cinema in the late 1960s. Usually, she was in public spaces, wearing a styrofoam box with an over her chest. She would look at the watch as a public participant reached his or her hands in through the styrofoam to touch her breasts. Once 33 seconds had passed, she’d politely tell her fondler that their time was up. Footage of Touch Cinema — which she showed decades ago at a Vienna film festival at which a filmmaker stood to yell, “Is this even film? Do we have to put up with this?” — plays now at Venus Over Los Angeles in a group show called “Cunt.” All of the artists in the all-women show have been working since at least the 1970s. Dorothy Iannone’s I Was Thinking of You III is a three-dimensional wooden box slightly larger than a human. Two bodies are painted on it, a man’s and a woman’s. She has little leaves around her genitals, bright red nipples and a screen for her face, on which black-and-white footage of Iannone’s own face, in some kind of ecstasy, plays. The work in “Cunt” is without exception masterful and quixotic in the way it deals with sexuality and its stigmas, but there remains that burning question: What does it mean to use a derogatory term for female genitals as the title of a show of phenomenal feminists?601 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights; through Sept. 2. (323) 980-9000, venusovermanhattan.com.
Walking around veteran L.A. artist Paul McCarthy’s wooden sculptures at Hauser & Wirth feels like wandering through those impressively gargantuan trunks of ancient felled trees. You look up at these black walnut monsters with awe. Informed by the Disney classic Snow White, and the older fairytales it’s based on, the show feels like a warped dream version of a child’s tale blown up to monumental proportions. A two-headed prince rides a horse as two-story-high Snow Whites dance with flowers in their arms. Every figure has an especially large head. 901 E. Third St., downtown; through Sept. 17. (213) 943-1620, hauserwirth.com.
All together, all day
On July 29, 12 artists and/or writers will gather at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive and stay there for the subsequent 24 hours. Participants include laub, a sculptor and performer; sculptor Veronique d’Entremont; and Meital Yaniv, who organized a reading series herself last year. They’ll write together, continuously, until it’s 4 p.m. the following day. Then they’ll read what they have to an audience at an event called “Maybe all of us at once.” 709 N. Hill Street, suite 104-8, Chinatown; Sun., July 30, 4 p.m.; free. (213) 935-074, lacarchive.com.
Back to the future
The California African American Museum (CAAM), long an underfunded gem, is having a bit of a renaissance: staging contemporary art exhibitions that turnover at an expedited rate; hosting dynamic public openings, with food trucks and DJs; hosting experimental performances like Kenyatta C. Hinkle’s dance and sound work in tribute to black women who have gone missing. This weekend, the museum pays homage to its own history and imagines its future in a public forum. Previous museum leaders and board members will speak, followed by current leaders, docents and artists like Mark Steven Greenfield and Dominique Moody, veterans of this city’s art scene who have shown at CAAM. It’s in keeping with the museum’s inclusive ethos that it would invite the public into a conversation about its progress. 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; Sun., July 30, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; free with RSVP. (213) 744-2024, caamuseum.org.