This week, a performer loses at solitaire again and again, and an artist stands stoically by as bulldozers dig graves.
Superman and shock therapy
“Through the slits of my eyes, which I don’t dare open too far … I saw the high bed, and the machine behind the bed,” Sylvia Plath wrote in 1963, describing an experience with electroshock therapy. Superman — or an actor dressed as him — recites these lines in a video Mike Kelley made in 2005 (called, appropriately, Superman Recites Selections From The Bell Jar and Other Works by Sylvia Plath). The superhero, separated from his homeland, embraces Plath’s vulnerability convincingly. The video plays in the first room of Hauser & Wirth’s Mike Kelley exhibition, amidst architectural renderings and models of Kandor and posters that read “Kandor-Con.” The imaginary convention Kelley invented is aimed at rebuilding Superman’s elusive home planet. This room is perhaps the most vulnerable and playful of the show — the production value and polish increases as one moves through. Flawless resin metropolises grown up on illuminated bases, or sit underneath pristine, thick glass. The professionalism somehow makes Kandor seem even more of an unreachable fantasy. Superman is probably stuck here, seeking solace in Sylvia Plath. 901 E. Third St., downtown; through Jan. 21. (213) 943-1620, hauserwirthlosangeles.com.
Naked with bulldozers
In Tierra, a 33-minute video Regina Jose Galindo made in 2013, the artist stands naked as a bulldozer digs large holes all around her. She’s re-enacting an atrocity that occurred during the Guatemalan civil war, when civilians were murdered en masse and left in bulldozer-dug mass graves. Galindo made this video after the trial of former Guatemalan president Jose Efrain Montt, re-enacting his crimes against humanity. She has used her work to protest Montt before. In 2003, when he ran for re-election, she carried a basin of blood with her as she walked from the Guatemalan Congress building to the National Palace. As she walked, she would periodically set down the basin and wet her feet, so that each step left a trace of blood. Galindo’s work appears in "Video Art in Latin America" at LAXArt, alongside a number of other videos that marry poetry with protest. 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through Dec. 16. (323) 871-4140, laxart.org.
The first painting you see when you walk into Mier Gallery’s Ben Sledsens exhibition is called The Creep (2016). A young woman in a jeans skirt and tennis shoes walks through a forest, a man right behind her. He’s behind a tree (with tulips flowering on it), but its trunk is slimmer than his torso, so he isn’t exactly hidden. If she’s pretending not to see him, doing so requires some effort. Antwerp-based Sledsens’ paintings, most large and made within the last year, are dense and rich with color and detail. Still, the figures and shapes are loose and stylized, sometimes childishly rendered. In another painting, an armored knight and a princess stand stiffly next to each other, vines of roses behind them. The knight has his sword awkwardly raised; the princess looks skeptical. 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through Nov. 25. (323) 498 5957, miergallery.com.
Comedian and collector
"It was like: 'Wait, the gardener speaks English? We’ve been talking in front of him all these years!'” said Cheech Marin during a recent interview with The New York Times. The actor-comedian was talking about what it’s like when institutions are forced to reckon with the Chicano artists they’ve excluded from their programming. Marin began collecting art in the 1990s, when his show Nash Bridges was airing. For years he has focused mainly on Chicano art; he has lent multiple works to shows that are part of the Getty’s multi-institution, multimillion-dollar initiative, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. The Carlos Almaraz show at LACMA includes work Marin owns, and he’ll speak onstage with museum director Michael Govan this week, about his commitment to Chicano art. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Mon., Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.; free with RSVP. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.
Anna Maria Maiolino sat silently playing solitaire in a 1976 performance, but her deck was incomplete; she could never win. The odds were stacked against her, making the game discomfiting for viewer and player alike. Choreographer Rebeca Hernandez will perform in Maiolino’s stead this weekend, making it a good time to visit the Italian-Brazilian artist’s impressive MOCA retrospective. 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Sun., Nov. 5, 3 p.m.; free with admission. (213) 626-6222, moca.org.