This week's list includes a show about incarceration, Lena Dunham's dad and art for gamers.
5. Behind bars
Artist Jennifer Moon was incarcerated for nine months, though nothing in her current exhibition at Commonwealth and Council tells us why — except to say she was “a common criminal,” not a “political” one. The show does tell us that Moon obsessively picked loose hairs out of her cell bedsheets each morning, dabbled in tobacco smuggling and had a prison romance. Spare photographs of objects she possessed or acquired behind bars hang above little cardboard shelves. There's a book called Where I Learned of Love resting on each, and if you read the bookmarked paragraphs — which doesn't take long at all — you'll piece together how Moon learned to assert herself, let herself go and love what she had all at once. 3006 W. Seventh St.; through May 5. (213) 703-9077; commonwealthandcouncil.com.
4. Light and sand movement?
In 1969, when Laddie John Dill started working in SoCal, he dug holes in the ground and stuck neon tubes into them to make pods of light. Soon after, he filled his studio with mountains of sand and criss-crossed sticks of neon on top of them. When New York dealers stopped in to visit, he was wracked with anxiety. “This is going to be embarrassing,” he thought. “It's just all this sand and all this light.” It wasn't embarrassing. His audience was thrilled to see the stoic, sandy traces of desert landscapes colliding with the flashy newness of neon light. At Nye+Brown gallery, Dill has again criss-crossed neon over mountains of earth, and you'll likely leave with sand in your shoes. 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd.; through June 9. (310) 559-5215, nyeplusbrown.com.
3. Voice without a generation
In the pilot of Lena Dunham's new HBO show Girls, the lead character tells her parents she might just be “the voice of my generation,” or at least “a voice of a generation.” Lena's real dad, Carroll Dunham, opened a retrospective of his drawings made between 1982 and 2012 at Blum & Poe gallery the same week as Girls' hyped-up debut. His perverse, introspective work seems almost unaware of which generation it belongs to. The craggy pictures of a voluptuous woman crawling through the desert, of a hat that looks like a penis, or of a man who looks like a house could have been made in 1960 as easily as 1990. 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.; through May 26. (310) 836-2062, blumandpoe.com.
2. Game art
In Chris Reilly's video game Everything I Do Is Art, But Nothing I Do Makes Any Difference, Part II, players can destroy gallery walls by riveting them with bullets. In Chris Elliot's Corporate Ladder, the object of the game is to take up as much space as possible using colored square blocks. Games like these, designed by students and artists who work with UCLA's Game Lab, will be playable this week, when the Hammer hosts the UCLA Game Art Festival. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Wed., May 9, 7 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000; hammer.ucla.edu.
1. Emotional history hacks
Patrick Painter Inc.'s poetic little group show includes just five works, each by an artist who tried to express human emotion in a guttural way. The oldest is a laughing bronze face, sculpted by Medardo Rosso in 1890. One of the newest is a funny 1978 drawing by Mike Kelley of a lady, a lot of blots and a fish. It's titled Mrs. Gorky's Butthole, a reference to the mother with whom painter Arshile Gorky was obsessed in the 1920s and '30s. The point? History is always doubling back on itself, and self-expression usually involves harkening back to what came before. 2525 Michigan Ave., Unit A8, Santa Monica; through May 12. (310) 264-5988, patrickpainter.com.