This week, a rooster works out in an electric chair, an ocean liner collides with a sofa, and an Italian artist in her 90s finally gets her due.
The nuttiest among us
A ship crashes into a porcelain sofa that Richard Shaw made in 1971, and two brown ceramic monsters, crafted by Clayton Bailey in 1970, swim across the wood floor in “Nut Art.” Parker Gallery's inaugural exhibition takes its title from a 1972 show at the Bay Area's Hayward Gallery. Most of the “Nut” artists included in this current show were delightfully out of step with the zeitgeist. Their take on pop was kitschy and campy (not at all slick in the way of work by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein). Sam Parker, who organized smart, historically savvy shows for the Landing before opening his own space this spring, paired work from the 1960s and 1970s from these Bay Area artists with new work from Los Angeles. Hannah Greely’s 2017 sculpture J-o-B — two sets of gangly legs with letters of the alphabet for heads, like a Sesame Street lesson gone rogue — shares space with a glittery painted snake by Maija Peeples-Bright and Peter Saul's sculpture of a buff rooster in an electric chair. The older artists certainly give the space its liberated charge, but the younger artists are catching up. 2441 Glendower Ave., Los Feliz; through Aug. 5. (213) 631-1343, parkergallery.com.
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Hanging from the sky
In 1966, Italian artist Marisa Merz used aluminum sheeting to make twisting, dangling figures that looked like limp robots, defunct yet adorable. She called these forms Living Sculpture and initially installed them in her kitchen in Turin. Now they hang from the ceiling at the Hammer Museum as part of the 91-year-old artist’s first major retrospective. The show, “The Sky Is a Great Space,” originally appeared at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and includes an array of tenderly strange objects. Merz wove nylon delicately around nails in the late 1960s, and made misshapen heads out of clay, wax and steel in the '80s and '90s. The work conveys a sense of freedom but no recklessness — Merz has made what she pleased for more than half a century, carefully and methodically. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; through Aug. 20. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
Mass consumption of cake
Nancy Buchanan bakes a chocolate cake in her 1984 video The Work of Art in the Age of Electronic Reproduction. We see her frosting the cake in gray, black and brown as the footage begins to spin, becoming kaleidoscopic, black-and-white and grainy. Buchanan titled the video, playing on a loop in the group show at POTTS, after an oft-quoted 1936 essay by theorist Walter Benjamin, who wrote, long before the geneses of television and the internet, about the effect mass image reproduction would have on art. “The video is like a combination between Julia Child and Walter Benjamin,” Buchanan said in an interview, talking about how “the media force feeds us the information it wants us to consume.” She eats the cake, savoring the frosting with focus, eating well while contemplating mass consumption. 2130 Valley Blvd., Alhambra; through July 23. potts.la.
More, better colors
When he first opened the Underground Museum back in 2012, artist Noah Davis built a replica of a neon sculpture by revered minimalist Dan Flavin and installed it in his new, raw storefront space. He wanted to give his neighborhood access to blue-chip art but didn’t quite have the access himself. The museum has that access now. For the past two years, it has been partnering with MOCA and now, as part of “Artists of Color,” a bona fide Flavin sculpture hangs in the space. Across from the Flavin, artist EJ Hill installed something far less cold and spare: cursive blue neon script that reads “We deserve to see ourselves elevated.” Artist Jennie C. Jones used twist ties to make bright red cord loop in on itself, and Joe Goode painted a huge canvas completely purple and placed a milk jar painted the same purple on the floor beneath it. There are plenty of artists of color in this show, a rarity in exhibitions about color-field painting, light and space, and other such form-focused movements. The show aims to survey how artists use and play with color in a wider, more diverse way than usual, and it does so elegantly. 3508 W. Washington Blvd., Arlington Heights; through Feb. 2. (323) 989-9925, theunderground-museum.org.
Everything altogether at once
“Sunlight Arrives Only at Its Proper Hour,” at 356 Mission, includes too many artists to keep track of. Works made this year share space with work made a century and a half ago — Jean-Léon Gérôme’s 1887 painting of a fierce cherub holding Medusa’s oversized, anguished face coexists with Nicolas Ceccaldi’s Wings, a 2017 sculpture in which natural, dark feathers surround an unidentified animal’s skull. In 2015, Michael E. Smith hung a sunflower stem across the black plastic seats from prison transport vehicles. This shares space with dark, introspective drawings such as the 1962 one that Lee Bontecou did with soot of one of the fierce, circular machines she would sculpt obsessively throughout her early career. The show, melancholic but materially rich and surprising, lulls you into a trance of sorts. You stop trying to understand what you’re seeing and just enjoy the moody diversity. 356 S. Mission Road, Boyle Heights; through July 20. (323) 609-3162, 356mission.com.