This week, two rival embodiments of rocker Kurt Cobain duke it out and an L.A. icon fixates on an iris that looks like Count Dracula.
Filling the house
Experimental filmmaker Marjorie Keller’s shorts have a fragmented, magically domestic aura. They’re installed throughout the historic Gamble House in Pasadena currently — a collaged-together home video in which children dance in a driveway plays in the dimly lit living room — alongside the work of 18 other artists. Alika Cooper and Anna Mayer, both artists, put the show together with the support of L.A. non-profit LAND, because they’d been inspired by Keller’s work. The majority of the work is by women. A thin, loopy papier-mâché-and-steel creature by Trulee Grace Hall winds its way around the master bedroom. On the screened in porch, a 1968 video by Kartemquin Films shows nuns preparing to ask random Chicagoans, “Are you happy?” And in the dining room, a film by the late Chantal Akerman, a contemporary of Keller’s, plays: a small apartment is shown in intimate detail, the color palette of each frame beautifully resonating with Mrs. Gamble’s design sensibility. The house becomes a key character in this show, which is very much about how to navigate and understand personal space. 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena; through Dec. 11. (323) 776-6629, nomadicdivision.org.
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In 1986, Lew Thomas appropriated a comical early film image of a man in pajamas reaching out to touch a resistant looking woman’s face, framed it and surrounded it with orange neon letters that read "Hollywood Castration." It's hard not to think about theorist Laura Mulvey's writings about castration anxiety's effect on Hollywood narratives. The work appears, brightly lit, in Cherry and Martin’s current exhibition, “Photography and Language,” of photographs by West Coast artists who knew each other and who all combined deadpan subject matter with text. Hal Fischer’s photographs of "Boy-Friends," each a man (often mustached) with a black bar obfuscating his eyes, include clinical-looking captions that describe liaisons. A man in overalls, labeled The European Visitor, apparently met Fischer in a bakery: “We noticed each other at the same moment, acknowledgement without a move.” Then on the day before the visitor returned to Berlin, he filled Fischer’s apartment with white gladiolas. 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City; through Oct. 29. (310) 559-0100, cherryandmartin.com.
Dracula in Hawaii
Hawaiian shirts embroidered with the outline of an iris (the flower) hang in the office off of Samuel Freeman Gallery’s courtyard right now. L.A. icon Billy Al Bengston has come to call these irises “Draculas” — because, really, they do look like Count Dracula if you’re in the right state of mind. The shirts are a little gaudy but entirely endearing, like much in Bengston’s current show. Bengston, still best known for work he did in the 1960s, made out of car parts and lacquer, embraced a recklessly expressionistic aesthetic in the '70s and '80s, combining rusty reds with browns and army greens, splattering paint over a surface otherwise orderly enough for a hotel lobby. Again and again in his current show, his Dracula flower appears, a fitting motif in a show that’s simultaneously normcore decorative and unapologetically weird. 2639 S. La Cienega Blvd., Mid-City; through Oct. 29. (310) 425-8601, samuelfreeman.com.
Good Kurt, bad Kurt
This week, on Friday night, Redling Fine Art will host two events back to back. First, artist William Kaminski screens his video Kurt Cobain Visitation Nitemare, filmed in a small room. In it, two Kurt Cobains — a sensitive, good one and a drug-fueled evil one — fight to control the musician's legacy. Then always compelling, aggressive performer Dawn Kasper presents Golden, a sound performance that involves 80 cymbals and hinges on audience participation. 6757 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Oct. 21, 7 p.m. & 9 p.m. (323) 378-5238, redlingfineart.com.
German artist Hans Arp’s Milking Object, a collage made in 1925 of cardboard, gold leaf and fabric, is a truly funny piece. It looks like a stuffed monster squished into a frame. The collage appears in “Schwitters Miró Arp,” just opened at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, and formerly on view at the gallery’s Zurich location. The show aims to make connections between two German artists associated with the intentionally absurdist Dadaist movement — Arp and Kurt Schwitters — and the Spanish artist Joan Miró. Installed in the galleries column-adorned, regal front gallery, at first the show appears serious and historical. Then you start looking more closely and discover one quirky choice after another, made by three men who undoubtedly had senses of humor. Miró’s upended, bronze-painted chairs, one of which is topped by a yellow banana-like shape, are another highlight. 901 E. Third St., downtown; through Jan. 7. (213) 943-1620, hauserwirthschimmel.com.