This week a wall looks as if it's falling in a downtown gallery, and brothers with large stuffed snakes protruding from their pants roll around on a steeply slanted floor in Echo Park.
On the floor at Smart Objects is an undulating, uneven pattern of black and white rectangles. The checkered floor is part of the exhibition “Unease,” and paintings by Derek Paul Jack Boyle hang on the wall. In one painting, a remote control sticks awkwardly through off-white blinds. It’s all we see: lines of blinds, and then a clunky-looking electronic device. In another, a mask sits in an open mailbox. A third shows two brown boots with hoses sticking out of their tops and water gushing out of holes in their sides. Everything Boyle paints is both perfectly familiar and also not quite right. And sometimes it’s ominous, like the few white plastic chairs that lie damaged and scattered against a black surface — a patio maybe? — beneath flights and flights of stairs. Are they evidence of an altercation or just neglect? 1828 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; through Dec. 1. (213) 840-9681, smartobjects.la.
The work of David Lamelas, the nomadic, Argentina-born artist who has made L.A. his home on and off over the years, is featured in multiple exhibitions in PST: LA/LA (the Getty-funded, regionwide exploration of Latin American art). The just-closed show at Spruth Magers displayed his videos, prolonged studies of public spaces. The University Art Museum at Long Beach is hosting a mini-retrospective that includes his conceptual and performative experiments (in 1968, at the Venice Biennale, Lamelas set up an office that broadcast news about the Vietnam War to visitors as it came in). At Maccarone, there are only two sculptures, both of them ambitious. One, Falling Wall, he originally conceived of in the early 1990s and remade for this show (he remade it for a Berlin show last year). A contraption made of weathered wood holds up a 26-foot-wide, 17-foot-high pristinely white wall. The wall leans forward precariously. Then, in the next room, there’s Walls Are Made for Jumping, a white wall in the shape of a cross and just over 3 feet high. The title tempts you to jump in, but the installation itself — perfectly executed and again painted bright white — looks too autonomous and pristine to disturb. 300 S. Mission Road, Boyle Heights; through Dec. 23. (323) 406-2587, maccarone.net.
Black bricks, zeros and ones
Maria Taniguchi’s large black-and-gray paintings lean against the walls at Ibid Gallery. The paintings depict small, dollhouse-sized bricks, each painted carefully against a sea of gray, then outlined with charcoal. These dark monochromes of building materials become full of depth, detail and gradations. It’s a lot of attention paid to something so basic, and aesthetically it loosely recalls minimalist experiments, such as Carl Andre putting raw wood and bricks in galleries in the 1960s. But painting just bricks over and over again is more kitschy, less pretentious and way more OCD — imagine covering the walls with fake, tiny, painted building materials because you couldn’t afford the real thing, and honing a method that gives them a sense of dimension. Taniguchi also carved thin wooden, shoulder-high sculptures to accompany her black bricks. They take the shapes of zeros and ones. Since "0" and "1" make up the binary code, she’s again painstakingly made something very basic dimensional and expansive. 670 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights; through Dec. 23. (323) 395-8914, ibidgallery.com.
How to be radical
“Politics are always there, it’s inescapable,” artist Maren Hassinger told Bomb magazine in 2015. “If you’re going to be a really good artist, it’s got to be there, because it is there.” Hassinger, who has been doing performance and sculptural work since the 1970s, said this right after talking about how a performance she did in the early 1980s was really about color theory. She’d painted pink paths through a desolate neighborhood, the pink popping out against the dead grass. But people always interpret it as a political statement, about race and economics. Hassinger will be at the California African American Museum this week to talk art and politics along with a number of other artists: political illustrator Emory Douglas (former minister of culture for the Black Panthers), community organizer and choreographer Shamell Bell, author Walter Mosley and others. They’ll talk about how art can challenge the establishment and encourage change. 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; Thu., Nov. 16, 7-9 p.m. (213) 744-2544, caamuseum.org.
Up from the floor boards
As soon as you walk into Machine Project, you’re confronted by the alt-space’s well-worn wood floor. It’s been raised so that now it angles up toward the ceiling, trap doors cut into it. It serves as a stage for Asher Hartman’s Sorry Atlantis: Eden’s Achin' Organ Seeks Revenge. Actors crawl up from under floorboards and roll downward, sometimes close enough for the audience to touch. Audience members sit in a few narrow rows at the front of the space, or on a specially priced “Apex Bitch Balcony” (those on the balcony must climb a ladder but are rewarded with snacks and a judicial wig). As with all Hartman’s plays, the plot is beside the point — there are two brothers with long, snakelike stuffed penises that they wave around. The same actor plays both their father and their mother. They all have co-dependency issues. The family drama is Faulkner-esque but also crude, as an adults-only spoof on The Muppets might be. Really, though, it’s the rhythm that matters; the weird banter and lamentations and humor pull you in if you let it, and you’re not quite sure what you’ve experienced when you leave, though you’d probably do it again. The play runs two more weeks. 1200-D N. Alvarado St., Echo Park; through Nov. 19; $20-$30. (213) 483-8761, machineproject.com.