Dress Form, Punching Bag or Both? A Haunting Show in Westlake

One of Isabel Yellin's punching bags
One of Isabel Yellin's punching bags
Courtesy of the artist and Skibum MacArthur

An artist builds her own imaginary version of a boxing gym in MacArthur Park, another uses Icelandic horse hair to depict fireplaces in a downtown show and more free art shows you should see this week. 

Punching-bag menagerie 
London-based Isabel Yellin padded the floors with black foam for her current exhibition at Skibum, a new project space on MacArthur Park. Sculptures that resemble punching bags hang from the ceiling. It’s meant to feel something like a boxing gym, except softer and stranger. The bags — pink, white and black — hang at different heights and have their own distinct, anthropomorphic shapes. The leatherette surfaces crinkle and pucker like aging skin. Some resemble dress forms, tighter up at the bust and fanning out where the skirt would be. A few look like Halloween ghosts. 712 S. Grand View St., #204, Westlake; through June 19. skibummacarthur.net

Grinch-like mashup
New York–based artist Shinique Smith is responsible for the looping, hanging installation of fabric ropes that fills a hallway at the new downtown gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. She makes her ropes out of found fabric, so they look used and bodily, and they're taken from all over — someone's favorite pair of pajamas might be balled up in there somewhere. Smith will be in town this week to talk about the work. She's referenced How the Grinch Stole Christmas when discussing the work in the past: "At the very end, there's this ginormous package on his sleigh. And it's roped up, and all the trappings and bobbles and ribbons are mashed up together." 901 East Third St., downtown; Sun., May 8, 2 p.m.; free, resv. required. (213) 943-1620, hauserwirthschimmel.com

Paper chimneys
In 2014, while an artist-in-residence at the National Textile Institute in Iceland, Catherine Fairbanks acquired coarse white and brown Icelandic horsetail hair. She wove the hair onto the canvases to make the two small works that hang on the back wall at Wilding Cran Gallery. She arranged the hair so that the works vaguely resemble fireplaces: white hair longer on the sides and at the top, like a mantel, and brown hair in the middle like a hearth. Then she built two huge papier-mâché chimneys that stand in the middle of the gallery. Each weighs more than 200 pounds, and they look like they date back a century or two. The show has an old-fashioned, literary quality — you imagine yourself in a Grimm’s fairy tale, where something sinister and unexpected is about to interrupt the domestic bliss. 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown; through May 28. (213) 553-9190, wildingcran.com.    

Hollywood fantasies
At first glance, Marius Bercea’s paintings at Francois Ghebaly Gallery look like kitschy California clichés. They’re a mix between the expressive, sunny paintings that Bay Area figurative artists were doing in the 1950s and uncomfortable tableaux by Red Grooms. But Bercea’s paintings are detail-rich enough to reward close looking. In one painting, a surfer wears a cowboy hat and a bandanna as he navigates jungle waters in front of what might be a swarm of flies. Two costumed characters — one in a furry suit, one in an astronaut helmet — emerge from beneath supersized leaves. They’re like miniature people emerging from a long journey through the jungle, all dressed up and ready to star in a movie. 2245 E. Washington Blvd., downtown; through May 14. (323) 282-5187, ghebaly.com

A stalker who turned into a dog
The press release for Marisa Takal’s show in Night Gallery’s project space reads like a mix between a ghost story and a coming-of-age poem. The “Man with the Red Eyes” watches her wherever she goes, the protagonist writes. Then he turns into a dog, and she is no longer scared. Takal’s paintings don’t look as if someone scared made them. Her strokes have a loose, easy confidence, and the objects in her abstracted still-lives fall into one another, as if someone in a lighthearted mood laid them out haphazardly. In one painting, a festive-looking fruit bowl — or is it an ice cream sundae? — sits in front of an orange orb that might be a jack-o-lantern. 2276 E. 16th St., downtown; through May 21. (323) 589-1135, nightgallery.ca. 


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