Pacific Standard Time's "Performance and Public Art" and Liz Glynn's "Spirit Resurrected," two performance art festivals, happen this month, so for once the event and performance lineup will outshine the exhibitions.
5. How I Learned to Draw
A tombstone made of rye bread and eaten with cream cheese; a gunshot; surgery beneath a clothesline; Groucho Marx glasses; a murdered ballerina: All this was part of Barry Markowitz's 1980 performance at the short-lived Provisional Theater of Los Angeles. Saturday, he'll bring back at least the clothesline for a performance at Human Resources, called How I Learned to Draw, about what taught him to represent, then distort, the world around him. 410 Cottage Home St., Chinatown; Sat., Jan. 14, 8 p.m.; free. (213) 290-4752, humanresourcesla.com.
4. Why Photography Matters
Photo L.A., the first of January's three L.A. art fairs, opens this weekend. Admission is steep ($20), but one event is particularly tempting. Michael Fried, a theorist who pegged minimalism as melodramatic in the 1970s, will chair a panel about himself on Saturday. A number of L.A. figureheads, including UCLA Art Department chair Russell Ferguson and even-keeled photographer James Welling, will be part of it. They'll discuss Fried's book, Why Photography Matters as Art More Than Ever Before, published in 2008 and written as though no one had yet given photography the weight it deserves. Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St.; Jan. 14, 1:30 p.m.; $10 plus general admission. (323) 965-1000, photola.com.
3. Sexual Violence, 35 Years Later
In 1977, for her project Three Weeks in May, artist Suzanne Lacy hung a map of Los Angeles outside City Hall and, every day, stamped it in red to mark rapes reported to police. By the end of the project, the middle of the map was a mass of red. Lacy launches Three Weeks in January this week. She will update a rape map daily, and host a series of performances and discussion about how sexual violence in this city has changed. Various locations; Jan. 12-Feb. 1. threeweeksinjanuary.org.
2. Art Made by U.S. Senators
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Every once in a while, Margo Leavin Gallery pulls out one of the most precious artworks in its vaults, Jeffrey Vallance's Drawings and Statements by U.S. Senators. In 1978, Vallance sent letters to senators in office, telling them he was working on a project about art and government, and asking if they'd send a drawing to support his project. The result? A quirky, almost intimate portrait of our elected leaders. One senator sent a snowman drawn by his daughter; two assigned their staff members to draw the Capitol (Jake Garn's staffer was particularly precise); Dick Stone sent an autographed photo. Jesse Helms took the opportunity to espouse on regionalism, Barry Goldwater drew a delightfully abstract cactus (with a caption, in case Vallance didn't recognize it), and Ted Kennedy explained that he used to paint but hadn't had even "a moment to make a sketch" since taking office. 812 N. Robertson Blvd.; through March 10. (310) 273-0603, margoleavingallery.com.
1. Lenin on La Brea
The soon-to-open Ace Museum looks like a parking garage. It's fenced in and concrete, with no obvious entrance. But on the La Brea corner where you'd expect a front door, there's a two-story steel bust of Vladimir Lenin, blatantly bald and with a mini Mao balancing on his head. The Gao brothers, Chinese artists who have been on police watch lists since the 1980s, made this massive sculpture as a critique of their country's politics, though this aim hasn't necessarily translated smoothly. The day I stopped by to see, two men were taking cellphone pictures of the sculpture and giving the finger to what they saw as a villain and his spawn. "Why not put up a bust of Hitler next?" said one. "But this is how America is now." 400 S. La Brea Ave.; through May. (323) 965-8200, acemuseum.org.