This week, an artist documents her hair loss, and a ceramic snake curls up on a gallery wall.
The ladies look the same
A spiderweb with a broken umbrella at its center fills the billboard-sized dropcloth on which Christine Wang painted Speak Truth to Power, on view in Night Gallery's group show "True Lies." The painting's title is scrawled in messy black text above the umbrella; beneath it, pristine gold-leaf lettering reads, "You have been selfish today if you have a conscience." With its balance of roughness and finery, the piece performs the very dilemma it calls out: Speaking truth to power involves discomfort; our avoidance of it, and so many other risky things, is a form of (selfishly?) playing it safe. Another highlight in the show also balances rough edges with smooth ones and articulates a cultural criticism. Kandis Williams pasted photographs of blond, female mainstream media personalities, all printed on transparencies, on a sleek Plexiglas box. These women, who all look painfully similar, surround a dramatic black-and-white photograph of the arrest of a white female suffragette. Did she fight so that only one version of streamlined femininity could become prominent? More likely, her fight is far from over. 2276 E. 16th St., downtown; through July 29. (323) 589-1135, nightgallery.ca.
Friends at work
Eve Fowler, a consistent supporter of her peers and founder of the alt-space Artist Curated Projects, spent two years filming female friends in their New York and L.A. studios. Often, she documented them doing mundane tasks. She also recorded them reading from Gertrude Stein’s Many Many Women, a book of narrative poetry and language play in which Stein describes people close to her. As one passage reads, “She was not going when she was moving she was moving so as to be where she could see the place where she had been.” Fowler has been using the avant-garde writer’s words consistently over the past few years — she put them on multicolored billboards, and on posters, turning radical 1920s prose into advertisements for open-mindedness. Her film, called with it which it as it if it is to be, screens at MOCA on Thursday night. 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Thu., July 27, 7 p.m.; free. (213) 626-6222 moca.org.
The flat ceramic wall piece that hangs alone in the first room of Julia Haft-Candell's show at Parrasch Heijnen resembles both an infinity sign and a snake with black and white scales. It's made of ceramic, held up with black screws. In the subsequent room, many ceramic forms sit on pristine white shelves. The forms resemble either crossed arms hugging themselves or figure eights. All are black and white, and some have little combs painted on them while others have stripes or curves. Haft-Candell printed a newsprint key to her forms, making their internal logic available to us. The “loop,” for instance, is “a sign of casualness or frivolity, but when etched in or sculpted with clay creates a permanent homage to the quick gesture.” 1326 S. Boyle Ave., Boyle Heights; through Sept. 2. (323) 943-9373, parrasch-heijnen.com.
Mortal on camera
"Impermanence," the three-person show up now at Cirrus Gallery, explores the aging or vulnerable body with quiet elegance. It includes photographic work by Barbara T. Smith, John Coplans and Hannah Wilke, all documenting their own bodies. Coplans' Back and Hands, from 1984, shows his lightly hairy, freckled back with his two clenched fists sitting tensely on his shoulder. He looks elongated and distorted. But his treatment of his own physical vulnerability is still gentle; critical but not unkind. Wilke’s photographs from her Intra Venus series show her in various stages of hair loss — her hair thin, straight and wet, then gone as she lays in an all-white bed (is it a hospital bed or just reminiscent of one?). Smith’s 86-year-old hands press up against glass while hovering above roses or above a print she made back in the 1960s, when art as a life and career was still relatively new to her. 2011 S. Santa Fe Ave., downtown; through Aug. 19. (213) 680-3473, cirrusgallery.com.
Ghebaly Gallery opened downtown three years ago as a multipronged, multi-inhabitant complex — the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive had its office there, as did the press 2nd Cannons and alt-space Fahrenheit. To accommodate all inhabitants, the gallery office was a loft. Now, after all the other organizations have left, the gallery has remodeled and the white walls and smaller gallery rooms make it, unexpectedly, more compact and intimate. Eight paintings by Farah Atassi fill the space. Stylized and bright, they feel like crosses between Cubist compositions and infographics. From a distance, they look flat and precise, but up close you can see that they’re bumpy and worked over. In Psychedelic Setting 3, little figures with cone bodies and circle heads move across a pattern that could have been lifted from a 1970s sofa. 2245 E. Washington Blvd., downtown; through Aug. 12. (323) 282-5187, ghebaly.com.