Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA rolls into town this week, with a monumental scroll by an artist who was probably misdiagnosed as schizophrenic and a seven-hour protest performance downtown.
Magic and a car crash
Carlos Almaraz makes Echo Park look like a magic kingdom in his 1980s paintings of the lake, with small rowboats on water that glows pink thanks to the setting sun. The palm trees are pink, too, and far more imposing and stately than high-rises in the background. A glowing gazebo looks neoclassical and a couple in wedding garb lingers in front of the statue of Mary. “In Echo Park you have this very serene lake facing you,” Almaraz said in a 1987 interview, adding, “then to the left of you, you’ve got the Hollywood freeway, which literally has crashes going on every few hours.” He started painting car crashes, fiery explosions on L.A. highways, as he worked on his Echo Park series. That the violence of those crashes co-existed with the tranquility of the lake felt very real to him. “I felt at home, it felt familiar,” he said. His paintings, unapologetically bold, colorful and over the top, currently hang on the second floor of LACMA’s Broad Contemporary building. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; through Dec. 3. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.
Argentine artist León Ferrari composed the performance Palabras Ajenas, or The Words of Others, in 1966, collaging together biblical texts, news stories and speeches of world leaders. Lyndon B. Johnson and Hitler have roles, as do Robert McNamara and Pope Paul VI. Ferrari, an artist-activist who died in 2013 at age 92, conceived of the piece as an anti-war protest, and performed it twice: in 1968 and 1972. It's roughly seven hours long, and this weekend 30 actors and artists perform it at REDCAT. Guests are free to come and go as they please. 631 W. Second St., downtown; Sat., Sept. 16, 1-8 p.m.; free. (213) 237-2800, redcat.org.
In Monique van Genderen’s current exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter, a 40-foot-long painting overtakes the largest two galleries. A passageway has been cut into the wall that usually separates these two spaces in order to make enough room. Now, the wall has a jagged edge that makes it look like a torn piece of white paper. The painting — blue, gray, green, pink, yellow with lots of empty white — resembles a hazy, sprawling landscape that you could wander through for hours without reaching a destination. 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City; through Oct. 7. (310) 837-2117, vielmetter.com.
Mike Cloud’s paintings hang in the old, wooden garage that serves as the Reserve Ames gallery. A messily abstract expanse of purple spreads across white tiles, and a clunky reddish-brown body stretches across a sheet of plastic attached to canvas. A sketchy orange jack-o-lantern smiles out from a hexagon-shaped canvas. Hung beside a window or against a back wall, these artworks, well-composed, introverted and weird, feel at home. They make the space seem more mysterious than it already is, and the rough, functional environment makes the paintings' crudeness perfectly natural. 2228 Cambridge St., Harvard Heights; through Oct. 13. (213) 534-7455, reserveames.com.
Paper made of everything
The long scroll that occupies the large vitrine in “Martín Ramírez: His Life in Pictures, Another Interpretation,” was in tatters not long ago. The newly opened ICA LA hired conservator Harriet Stratis to piece it back together. Ramírez, a Mexican-born artist who spent his 30 art-making years in California psychological institutions, used primary school supplies: crayons, pencils, glue. In reconstructing the scroll, Stratis found that Ramírez had made the large piece of paper by pasting together salvaged things: doctor’s notes, greeting cards, wrapping paper. Fragments of dated letters led her to believe Ramírez made the scroll in the early months of 1950, developing the compelling, dense scene of tunnels, portals, deer, swirling ribbons of color and figures in towering hats that we can now see in all its glory. 1717 E. Seventh St., downtown; through Dec. 31. (310) 284-8100, theicala.org.