This week, there's a fresh, loose mural on Santa Monica Boulevard — the sort of art you can see even on a holiday — and a show at LACMA that revisits a South Pacific storm that left cruise ship passengers injured.
In Jesse Stecklow’s first solo show at M+B, all the photographs and sculpture are hung near the floor or actually sitting on the floor. You have to crouch to get a good look at the tuning forks stretched across the wall or attached to aluminum rectangles. Everything looks oddly scientific but also too aesthetically controlled to be really functional. Untitled (Sound Stage), a box lid inside a small black cage, makes a fair amount of noise — it’s like a ball is caught inside and careening back and forth. 612 N. Almont Drive, W. Hlywd.; through Feb. 7. (310) 550-0050, mbart.com.
4. Caught in a storm
The set for Thomas Demand’s new 2-minute film, Pacific Sun, is the cafeteria of a cruise ship. Demand built the set out of paper, modeling it after the Pacific Sun cruise liner, which got caught in a storm six years ago. In the video, which went viral not too long ago, people are careening back and forth along with the furniture. But in Demand’s version it’s just the stuff — chairs, tables, cash register, coffee cups — that spill around and, in some case, fall completely apart. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; through April 12. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.
3. Abstract on the street
Artist Sarah Cain, whose paintings have folded over onto floors or bled onto walls before, just painted the side of nonprofit LAND’s office. Something about having a whole building and a busy environment to respond to — the office is yards from Donut Time, up against a pawn shop — brings out a gratifying looseness and haphazardness in Cain’s work. It looks like graffiti, but graffiti done by someone who couldn’t care less about getting caught and got lost in the possibilities. A wild red swizzle there, strong blue curves here, falling orange rectangles and thick plus signs that recall that ubiquitous medical marijuana cross. 6775 Santa Monica Blvd., #2A, Hlywd.; ongoing. (646) 620-8289, nomadicdivision.org.
2. Strategically low-key
Michael E. Smith, an artist now based in New Hampshire, didn’t come to Los Angeles to install his current show at Reserve Ames, a space that’s also a private residence in L.A.’s Harvard Heights. But he looked carefully at the pictures and made specific choices: an abstract gray sculpture made from hardened sweatpants in the entryway, a heat-gun mobile where the wind chime usually hangs out back, a green light in the old garage. It’s this mix between precision and casualness that makes the work so compelling. 2228 Cambridge St., Mid-City; through Jan. 25; by appointment only. (213) 534-7455, Info@reserveames.com, reserveames.com.
1. Mask of a former self
The most striking image in Gillian Wearing’s exhibition at Regen Projects may be the first one you see: a portrait of the artist wearing the mask of a smoother, younger-looking self. She’s holding an unwieldy, small sculpted man, and behind her is a surrealist painting of plants that look as if they could eat you alive. She has that kind of fierce vulnerability you’d associate with, say, Sylvia Plath, and the portrait sets the tone for a show that includes a video, projected large in a back room, in which people speak as if from beyond the grave. At one point, we see an elderly couple walking slowly down a lush path. He speaks of how beautiful his wife once was. She wears a blue sweatsuit, walks with the help of forearm crutches and talks about how her husband drove her into the ground. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; through Jan. 24. (310) 276-5424, regenprojects.com.
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