This week, flags figure prominently in two L.A. shows, as summer group exhibitions give artists a chance to grapple with power and patriotism.
Shirtless Tony Curtis
“I want to cum in your heart,” reads the white text on John Giorno’s rainbow-colored painting.The 80-year-old artist has a way of giving his jabs a positive twist. One imagines him holding up his painting, looking smug, in front of a right-leaning politician's office. He’s part of “Over the Rainbow,” the current group show at Praz Delavallade. Curated by Rene-Julien Praz, the gallery’s co-founder, the show “pays tribute to all the brave artists who defend the human rights of all people.” Human rights, as portrayed here, are colorful, sensual and occasionally exuberant. A shiny, shirtless Tony Curtis stands on a sailboat in Jack Pierson’s collage, the word “Glory” beside him. In George Stoll’s Untitled (dropped American flag #4), made of silk, the stripes are all inconsistent lengths, the stars scattered every which way, spreading beyond the blue. It’s delicate and discombobulated, but beautiful. 6150 Wilshire Blvd., Carthay; through Aug. 26. (323) 509-0895, praz-delavallade.com.
So many colors
While “Artists of Color,” a show attempting to diversify our understanding of color field in art, is up at the Underground Museum, “black is a color” is up at Charlie James. “What would it mean to see pink on the wall and name it black?” curator Essence Harden asks in the press release. How does color in art help us understand place, lineage, ownership? Azikiwe Mohammed built something of a shrine in the back gallery, where quaint knickknacks (a black Jesus, a black cherub, a grayish dog and an off-white cat named Anita) and lamps line two shelves. The lamps light a series of three T-shirts, each airbrushed with the face of a woman (or, in one case a 7-year-old girl) shot by police. Sadie Barnette pinned, among other images, a photograph of a man in a paint-splattered orange jumpsuit onto a gray piece of paper with drips of orange spray paint on it. Below the paper, she hung an orange bow that's as bright as a brand-new traffic cone. The work folds productivity, confinement and celebration into each other. Patrick Martinez’s green-and-pink neon sign saying “Black Owned” hangs over the door — you see it on your way out. 969 Chung King Road, Chinatown; through Aug. 19. (213) 687-0844, cjamesgallery.com.
You'll traumatize them
“Juries are made out of people who are ordinary people,” says a cameraman who’s filming a crime scene as he speaks. “If you show them the body right away, you’ll traumatize them.” This is part of Chris Kraus’ 1987 film How to Shoot a Crime. A few minutes before, we heard a dominatrix tell us that you have to be sensitive in order to hurt people, and then compare what she does to murder (her kind of hurting has, of course, different intention). The film plays in Chateau Shatto’s current group show, “At This Stage.” Gardar Eide Einarsson’s pile of rejected flags, collected from flag factories, lies on the floor near Hamishi Farah’s Aleeyah or Repatriation for Hypervisibility, a loose but still graphic painting of a brutal girl fight that happened in an Indianapolis park in 2015. The show, meant to be about violence and power and images, is charged, fraught and very much unresolved. 406 W. Pico Blvd., downtown; through Aug. 12. (213) 973-5327, chateaushatto.com.
Carol Rama’s small drawing Totem (2000) could depict a few things: Maybe it’s thighs and buttocks leaning into each other. Maybe it’s two sets of rocks. Either way, it has an endearingly lost quality. This piece by the late artist hangs in “Hurts to Laugh,” organized by writer-curator Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer for Various Small Fires. The press release reads like a poem, but a poem, apparently, based on “scribbled memos” from a “gripe-filled” meeting: “it hurts how cute and vulnerable she is/it hurts my back to sit like this/it hurts that the center cannot hold and we haven’t learned from history.” Claude Wampler’s film of late artist Mike Kelley has the same title as the show. Jay Heikes' Assisted Living (2017), a wax-coated skeleton, balances on the floor, a marionette puppet controller hovering above its head. Lee Revlas' light, thin wood sculptures — all of which look like 3-D line drawings — protrude from walls or tilt across the floor. They’re still for now, but seem too antsy to stay put. 812 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood; through Aug. 19. (310) 426-8040, vsf.la.
A mullet for your face
Adam and Ben of the local YouTube architecture series The Rad, Bad and Sad Show will rate L.A.’s architectural features at the Torrance Art Museum this weekend, as part of the monthlong alternative, multisite biennial Maiden L.A. In March, they rated a psychic shop in Highland Park, with an awning that looked, at first, “almost like if you did a mullet on the front of your face.” The lights on either side of the awning look like earrings, so they decided that, maybe, the awning was a towel worn by a woman who’d just arrived at a nude beach “but decided to keep her earrings on.” Adam rated the shop sad; Ben and guest star Becky rated it rad. It’s a game meant for vernacular architecture snobs, the kind of people who see a doughnut shop and feel entitled to opinions about the paint job. 3320 Civic Center Drive, Torrance; Sat., Aug. 12, 4 p.m. maiden.la/calendar2017/2017/8/12/the-rad-bad-and-sad-show.