This week, on Inauguration Day, an artist at LACMA explores a contentious moment from Reagan's inauguration, and, in Culver City, an artist reconsiders the Declaration of Independence, among other things.
Post-Truth ad nauseum
For his Susanne Vielmetter show, Karl Haendel annotated the Declaration of Independence in a cranky way, like a scholar fed up with an over-hyped source. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people evolved differently," he writes below, in an amended, less-idealistic version. The Declaration leans against a navy blue wall that also displays a meticulous graphite drawing of a coyote in a child’s bedroom, and a white on black sign that reads “Post-Truth” over and over again. Across the room hang large photographs of teen girls skillfully riding horses — in a rodeo, or in the open? — and a smaller portrait of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. The show, which has two more rooms of work and ends with a monumental portrait of Hillary Clinton next to an equally monumental expanse of thick, dark graphite, would feel diaristic if the work weren’t so carefully made. Instead, it feels like a deep, time-consuming dive into a confusing web in which public realities, private frustration, politics and recreation all hold equal weight. 6006 Washington Blvd, Culver City; through Feb. 11. (310) 837-2117, vielmetter.com.
Dancing to the newspaper
The two days after the inauguration, the Hammer Museum will host "At night the states," organized by curators and sisters Shoghig Halajian and Suzy Halajian. The multipart performance and presentation series is meant to explore friendship, alliances and rights. Day one begins with a trio of performance — one, by Malin Arnell, starts at the Women’s March at City Hall, and ends at the museum — and ends with two talks, one by Jennifer Doyle called “Paranoia, Sexual Harassment and the Division of Labor.” Day two begins and ends with veteran dancer Simone Forti’s News Animation performance, in which she speaks and moves improvisationally in response to newspapers she crumples, drops, holds and walks on. 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Westwood; Sat., Jan. 21 and Sun., Jan. 22, 1-5 p.m. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
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1981 over again
Artist Edgar Arceneaux calls his screening of Until, Until, Until… (2015-16) a “Counter Inauguration Event.” The film takes as its subject Ben Vereen’s blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. Vereen channeled Bahamian-American vaudeville performer Bert Williams, who performed in blackface while having (like Vereen) black skin. Vereen sang the show tune “Waiting for Robert E. Lee,” then pretended to ask a bartender for an imaginary drink. His request was denied due to his skin color. ABC broadcast the inauguration that year but censored the second half of Vereen’s performance, so few Americans saw it in full. Arceneaux restaged Vereen’s performance in New York last year, and this film documents that restaging and the live, 21st-century audience’s response to it. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; Fri., Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m. (323) 857-6010, lacma.org.
Somber Massachusetts mash-up
Three big, propped-up walls fill the first main room of Sam Durant’s show at Blum and Poe, "Build Therefore Your Own World." He modeled these after the first houses built for emancipated slaves in Massachusetts, and then he inscribed newly written poetry on them by poets working now, such as Robin Coste Lewis and Tisa Bryant. Standing there reading is a somber affair. In the next two rooms, the work becomes somewhat absurd. A sculpture of 18th-century black American poet Phyllis Wheatley’s prim, neat desk has a sculpture of her white, famous contemporary, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, chair jutting through its surface. 2727 S. La Cienega Ave., Culver City; through Feb. 18. (310) 836-2062, blumandpoe.com.
Gisela Colon’s sculptures appear deceptively effortless, as if they’re alien beings that were always fully formed. Most of the time, one smaller sphere of iridescent color floats inside a bigger ellipsoid or rectangular shape. Colon makes these sculptures, a few in this show podlike and wall-hanging and some strange, stand-alone monuments, using a plastics manufacturing process called blow-molding, which contributes to their aura of perfection. But engaging with these objects has to be a full-body process. If you don’t move around them, from one side to the next or backing up and then getting close, you won’t see how colors change, slightly at times and at other times so dramatically it seems as if the inner shapes are disappearing into their outer skins. 831 North Highland Ave., Hollywood; through Feb. 18. (323) 462-2790, dianerosenstein.com.