Five Artsy Things to See This Week, from Wallace Berman Films to Anti-Cute to a Show Inspired by a Bigelow Tea

Sue Williams' 1992 painting "The Art World Can Suck My Proverbial Dick"
Sue Williams' 1992 painting "The Art World Can Suck My Proverbial Dick"
Courtesy Regen Projects and MOCA Los Angeles

Most exhibitions on this week's list are the work of youngish artists, but not the one by Sue Williams, who's been around since the 1980s. It's her first solo show in this city since 2006 and worth seeing, even going out of your way to do so.

5. The Uber-Mentor

"Wallace was the most complete human being I ever knew," George Herms says of Beat artist Wallace Berman, who lived a good portion of his short life in Topanga Canyon. Berman informally mentored up-and-coming artists and filmmakers, including Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn, who were frequent guests at his house. On Dec. 3, the Armory Center for the Arts will show six experimental films either by or influenced by Berman. The longest is a 25-minute version of Herms' Topanga Rose, strung-together shots of the canyon and what happened in it (including the wedding of Neil Young, who also considered Berman a mentor). All the other films run less than 8 minutes and are more psychedelic than esoteric. 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; Sat., Dec. 3, 8 p.m.; $10. (626) 449-0139, alternativeprojections.com.

4. Constant Comment

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Photographer Eileen Quinlan named her current Overduin and Kite exhibition after the orange rind-flavored tea that gave the Bigelow company its first hit, a tea dubbed Constant Comment because it "constantly" generated buzz among the small group of ladies with whom its inventor socialized. Like the tea, Quinlan's show is simple -- one of the strongest images is a large black-and-white photograph of a quilt -- and under control even when spiced up. 6693 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; through Dec. 23. (323) 464-3600, overduinandkite.com.

3. Over-the-Top Ordinary

Like glazed, kitschy stoneware mugs you might find in Denver gift shops, Matthias Merkel Hess' new ceramic work has a speckled, faux-worn, decorative look. But what Hess has made for "Bucketry," his current show at ACME, are ceramic, stoneware and porcelain gas cans, laundry hampers, 10-gallon buckets and replicas of those Styrofoam coolers and colored plastic crates sold at Target. Precisely crafted and laid out on the gallery floor in a loose, triangular formation, these objects push the mundanity to an extreme, which shouldn't really even be possible. 6150 Wilshire Blvd.; through Dec. 21. (323) 857-5942, acmelosangeles.com.

2. Anti-Cute

An artist I knew in grad school once tried to "take back the rainbow." He made paintings and quilts of himself with rainbows growing out of or over him. It's unclear who he wanted it back from. Civil rights campaigners? Benetton T-shirts? The Care Bears? But he clearly wanted it to himself and wanted it to be simple, not symbolic. In "Adult Roman Numeral Thirty" at Steve Turner Contemporary, Michael Decker has installed a rainbowlike arc of teddy bear cutouts, candles and other things. Aphorisms and collectibles, including hacked-up decorative-glass bowls, constitute the show, and it feels like an effort to take back sentimentality from craft culture and turn cute inside out. 6026 Wilshire Blvd.; through Dec. 17. (323) 931-3721, steveturnercontemporary.com.

1. Tomboy Trouble

Nothing's that feminine about Sue Williams' paintings at Regen Projects, but a boy could never make them. They have the sort of surfer- or biker-culture crassness associated with artists Raymond Pettibon or Richard Prince, and the crudeness of Larry Johnson (who, in one print, sticks a pencil in a donkey's ass). But they also defy all that. It's like Anybodys, that picked-on tomboy from West Side Story, grew up, read a little French philosophy, then learned to throw punches just right. 633 N. Almont Drive, W. Hlywd.; through Dec. 22. (310) 276-5424, regenprojects.com.

Follow @cgwagley and @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.


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