This week, a machines drips metaphorical money in Hollywood and skeletons guard a white house built into a Silver Lake gallery.
Fountains and flames
In 1974, New Zealand economist W.A. Phillips built the Moniac, a 6½-foot-tall computerized contraption meant to show how the economy works. Different plastic tanks represented different sectors of the U.K.’s economic system — a valve could be opened to let colored waters flow from the Treasury into the Department of Health, for instance. The speed of pumps could increase or decrease to reflect tax rate changes. Artist Michael Stevenson made his own replica of the machine in 2012, called the Fountain of Prosperity. It’s bigger than the original, and a complete mess. Fluids leak and get stuck. Discolored water looks like it's been sitting static far too long. The sculpture appears in the current exhibition at Regen Projects, a overflowing and effective group show curated by artists Gabriel Kuri and Abraham Cruzvillegas. A few feet from Stevenson’s leaky Fountain sits Ariel Schlesinger’s kinetic sculpture, Bubble Machine (2017). Hydrogen tanks make perfect bubbles that burst into flames as soon as they hit the electrified wires Schlesinger installed below. So much for efficient bubble production. 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through Oct. 28. (310) 276-5424, regenprojects.com.
Three fingers and a heart-shaped bat
Franklin Williams’ Black Wings (1967), a wall-hanging soft sculpture, looks like a heart-shaped bat with a black penis for a tongue and furry tentacles doubling as fangs and feet. In other words, it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fascinating to look at, all the details precise: the yellow stitches along the dark wings, the pattern on the stuffed green and red body. Three Blue Fingers (1969), made two years later, hangs nearby — blue cloth tentacles encased in plastic dangle from an orange shape that’s like a cross between a sock puppet and a lizard. All the works by the longtime Bay Area artists are like this, each object a strange world unto itself. 2441 Glendower Ave., Los Feliz; through Nov. 4. (213) 631-1343, parkergallery.com.
Renaud Jerez calls the fort he built along the back wall of Jenny’s one-room-only gallery The White House (2017). It’s painted a chalky, matte kind of white, and it’s like a cross between a backyard fort and a haunted house. Plastic skeletons clumsily covered in modeling clay decorate the balcony. The Berlin-based Jerez titled the show “Narcissism and Depression,” and four figures made of PVC, leather, fur, and plastic skulls stand guard in front of the house. The most unwieldy of them wears a long-haired wig and has a bulbous modeling clay face. Otherwise, they’re economical sculptures — leather straps and harnesses that connote BDSM connect to the PVC pipes just so, and the plastic skeleton heads are too small to seem garish. Instead, they seem like the embodiments of a personality, one that’s perpetually dark, a bit dysfunctional but still agile and active, ready to let loose at a dance party though probably to melancholic music. 4220 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; through Nov. 4. (323) 741-8237, jennys.us.
Swallowed by architecture
Modern architecture in Latin America and its neighbor, SoCal, has a complicated legacy, which 21 artists explore in “Condemned to Be Modern” at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery in Barnsdall Park. Mexico City based artist Eduardo Abaroa lays out plans for the destruction of the Anthropology Museum in his home city. Multiple framed silkscreens present the carefully calculated stages of the destruction — Abaroa enlisted demolition experts to help him. He meant the gesture as a reminder of how marginalized histories of pre-Hispanic peoples remain. L.A.-based Clarissa Tossin filmed three performers dancing around the Mayan Revival home that Frank Lloyd Wright designed on the Barnsdall grounds. He’d taken as his inspiration pre-Columbian Meso-American design, appropriating a tradition of a people his country had displaced, and the dancers emerge from the structure as if it’s birthed them. They wear leopard-print bodysuits and mimic the building’s geometric patterns as the move against the wall. Then something changes. The mood becomes dark and stormy and the dancers morose. One tumbles down the stairs and then rolls back up in slow motion, and the building swallows the dancers up again. They’ve been allowed just a little bit of expressive freedom. 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; through Jan. 28. (323) 644-6269, lamag.org.
Reviving a controversy
Guatemalan playwright Hugo Carillo based The Heart of the Scarecrow, his 1962 stage spectacle, partly on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, except he modeled all his characters on Guatemalan politicians and public figures. Actors wore clown makeup. When art students performed the play at Universidad Popular in 1975, the director received death threats and the school’s entire theatrical season was canceled. Artist Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa has revived the play and will perform his version in LACMA’s Cantor Sculpture Garden for the second time this week (the first was in August). He’s made his own costumes and props and enlisted an impressive cast of L.A. performers, among them Nao Bustamante and Marcus Kuiland-Nazario. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Thu., Oct. 26, 5:30 p.m. (323) 857-6000, lacma.org.