Christine Wang, The issues are too important to be Judgmental, 2016
Christine Wang, The issues are too important to be Judgmental, 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery

5 Free Art Shows to See in L.A. This Week

This week, one artist merges the confederate flag with Black Nationalist iconography, and another inserts political figures and talking heads (Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, Donald Rumsfeld) into religious iconography.

Smells like Skid Row
The votive candles installed beneath Christine Wang’s new paintings, ornate and done with gold leaf to mimic 15th-century religious iconography, are supposed to smell like Skid Row. (I didn’t smell one, but someone else assured me that certain candles indeed had a rough scent). The paintings couple epic heaven-meets-hell imagery with class warfare and political satire. Ann Coulter appears naked in a mess of bodies that includes Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and members of the Bush administration. Activist Angela Davis is a saint. “This is what I feel like when we fight,” reads the all-caps text running across a judgment day scenario. Night Gallery, 2276 E. 16th St., downtown; through Nov. 12. (323) 589-1135, nightgallery.ca.

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Rooftop tribute to fierceness
Artist Marjorie Cameron, always known just as Cameron, has a complicated onscreen legacy. In Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, she played the Scarlett Woman, which furthered the idea of her as an occult goddess, objectified for her persona but not necessarily acknowledged for her own fierce creativity. Bradford Nordeen of the Dirty Looks film series put together a screening and performance event happening weekend on the roof of the Ace Hotel. With rituals, vintage film excerpts, a short conversation, DJ sets and new work by artists interested in Cameron's legacy, the event will, ideally, present a fuller picture. 929 S. Broadway, downtown; Sun., Oct. 30, 8:30 p.m.; free. (213) 623-3233, acehotel.com/calendar.

Falling man
British painter Michael Andrews painted A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over in 1952 for his graduation examination at London’s Slade School of Art. A big, round, bald man in a black suit is toppling onto his side, a forced smile and a hint of surprise on his face. A woman behind him looks shocked by the impact. Andrews would later say that the painting was about “the complete upsetting” of someone’s equilibrium, and their attempt to recover immediately while concealing “that they have perhaps been badly hurt or upset.” The painting hangs in "London Calling" at the Getty, which also features psychologically complicated work by Andrews and his peers, among them Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach. So many of the paintings seem to be mining biography in sensuously aggressive ways — Freud’s painting of his first wife, pregnant, vulnerable and not necessarily thrilled about posing; Auerbach’s portrait of a benefactress as a fleshy mound of oil paint reclining against an expanse of brown. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood; through Nov. 13. getty.edu.

Confederate flag turned inside out
The familiar shapes and patterns of the confederate flag move across a screen, shifting and multiplying kaleidoscopically. Only they’re the wrong colors: instead of red, white and blue, they’re red, green and black, the colors of the Black Nationalist Party. Artist Hank Willis Thomas calls this video installation, on view at the California African American Museum, Black Righteous Space. There’s a vintage microphone in the middle of the dark room, so visitors could, hypothetically, go up and speak. Usually, though, voices are coming from speakers in the room: James Baldwin recalls the time a man he met at the British Museum kept asking him where he was born. He said New York. “But before that where were you born?” the man insisted, wanting to know where in Africa a black man like Baldwin could have originally come from. Baldwin tries to explain: “I couldn't find out where it was because my entry into America is a bill of sale.” 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; through Feb. 19. (213)744-7432, caamuseum.org

Mourning, rage and education
One of Suzanne Lacy’s most visually memorable performances, done in collaboration with Leslie Labowitz, involved a motorcade, hearse and a faceless, robed chorus of women on the steps of City Hall. It was 1977, the serial killer known as Hillside Strangler was killing women and the media, as Lacy and Labowitz saw it, was sensationalizing. The performance, called In Mourning and In Rage, expressed their anger over this and the treatment of violence against women as random rather than systemic. A few years ago, artist Andrea Bowers did a series of drawings in response to the Steubenville rape case, in which two high school football players were convicted of assaulting a 16-year-old girl. Lacy and Bowers will move into the soon-to-open Main Museum’s “Beta” space this week. Lacy, with the help of other female artists, will give Bowers performance lessons; a year ago, at New York's Drawing Center, Bowers taught Lacy to draw in a similarly public fashion. Members of the public are welcome to sit in. 114 W. Fourth St., downtown; Sun., Oct. 30-Tue., Nov. 8, noon-8 p.m. (213) 986-8500, themainmuseum.org