This week, a pop-up show features cowboys more heart-wrenched and wavering than conventionally macho, and a museum remembers a friar's role in shaping Southern California.
5. Experimental baby-sitting
Artist Jay Erker, who is certified in CPR and first aid, will provide free child care at Raid Projects this weekend. It will be "child-focused, participatory experimental action" that lasts for the duration of the opening of women-only group show "Tete-a-Tete." That night, Molly Shea also will perform, using a water-filled condom as a magnifying lens to start a fire while discussing ancient forms of feminism, and Marisa Williamson will appear as Sally Hemings, quilting while telling her story. 602 Moulton Ave., dwntwn.; Sept. 7, 5-10 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org, raidprojects.com.
4. Slow-motion emergency
John Knuth's mural, part of the Sixth Street Mural at the Standard program, shows red-orange smoke billowing out against a black background. It's the photograph of an emergency flare against a night sky, and, seen shooting up out of the desert, or on the side of a road, it probably would have an urgency to it. But on Sixth Street, the image feels instead like those lyrical scenes from movies: The protagonists are stranded somewhere big and deserted, and the camera lingers on the smoke from a flare in a melancholic way that tells you no help will be coming anytime soon. 550 S. Flower St., dwntwn.; through November. (213) 892-8080, standardculture.com.
3. Wild West heroes, the fuzzy versions
Zoe Walsh's paintings of cowboys are based on stills from Western films, but stills from less iconic moments: not John Wayne with gun casually cocked, but bodies wrestling awkwardly, or a bulky man reaching forward as if in some lovesick, desperate trance. The paintings, all black-and-white, have a slight fuzziness that recalls the static of a TV set, but they also have the lush looseness that only paint yields. They show for one night only at Pieter studio in Lincoln Heights. 420 W. Avenue 33, Unit 10; Saturday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m. pieterpasd.com.
2. Shoestring sci-fi
A man shown against a night sky explains that he lives with oxen but that he is one of the last who does, "since the planet upon which men live has saturated." You see him and others from seemingly rural, maybe run-down areas speak about space travel and telepathy in the film footage that's part of Neil Beloufa's Sci-Fi Shelf, a sculpture of wood, glass, paint and electrical equipment, tucked in a corner behind a portable wall in Night Gallery's current group show, "CULM." But the flat-screen TV monitor, positioned at the top of Beloufa's sculpture, faces downward and there's no convenient way to get below it. This means you can only see the the footage reflected in angled mirrors that are part of Beloufa's half-high-tech, half-hodgepodge and surprisingly spellbinding contraption. 2276 E. 16th St.; through Sept. 28. (650) 384-5448, nightgallery.ca.
1. Disturbing the dead
Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who founded the first missions in California and famously compelled Native Americans to convert through fervent chest-beating, has been exhumed multiple times since his 1784 death. Once in 1882, a friar distributed threads from Serra's dug-up burial stole. In 1987, it was part of the Catholic beatification process -- to verify that the buried body was indeed Serra's, so graveside devotees would know they're in the presence of godly remains. The stole, a brown frayed thing, and a photo of that second exhumation are at the Huntington right now in "Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions." The best parts of that show are the strange, ornate relics and paintings -- images of Serra being chased by a servant boy while doing menial labor, or Serra taking his last Communion. They're sometimes mystical, sometimes materialistic and always ominous, like the whole mission-founding project was. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; through Jan. 6. (626) 405-2100, huntington.org.
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