Still from Pat O’Neill's Saugus Series (1974). 16mm transferred to video.
Still from Pat O’Neill's Saugus Series (1974). 16mm transferred to video.
Courtesy of Cherry and Martin Gallery

5 Free Art Shows You Should See in L.A. This Week

This week, paintings in Culver City are like vintage tarot cards, a tree wears fur and a children's book author has a museum show.

5. Fantasy at the museum
The El Segundo Museum of Art's current exhibition, called "Spark," is an unusual kind of project. A collaboration between German children's book author Cornelia Funke and the production studio Mirada, founded by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, it includes a sculpture of an ogre's severed arm, mirrors, shadow play and fantastical costumes on mannequins. Funke will be reading from her book Dragon Rider, about a dragon named Firedrake and a boy named Ben. 208 Main St., El Segundo; Sunday, March 22, 1-2 p.m. Exhibit runs through May 24. (424) 277-1020, esmoa.org

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4. Biochemical body essay
Barcelona-based writer Paul B. Preciado published the book Testo Junkies in 2013, detailing his own use of testosterone daily for a year. He called the book a “body-essay” about life on a planet where surveillance, slave trafficking and the biochemical alteration of emotions all co-exist. Preciado will be at the Hammer to talk with incisive memoirist Maggie Nelson and gender studies scholar Jack Halberstam. Ideally, the talk will be fiery, strange and also sensitive. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Tuesday, March 24, 7:30 p.m. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.

3. Dressing up the trees
Gordon Holden titled his current exhibition at Paul Loya “Wishful Thinking,” and the show is full of comically clothed trees and burnt paintings with pastel-colored birthday candle wax dripping down them (Holden lit the candles and let them burn until he “remembered” to blow them out). Fruit-Fur, perhaps the show’s most striking sculpture, is a fake orange tree wearing a blue, faux-fur cape. It looks both regal and like a gag. 2677 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through May 2. (310) 876-1410, paulloyagallery.com

Gordon Holden's Fruit-Fur (2015)EXPAND
Gordon Holden's Fruit-Fur (2015)
Courtesy Paul Loya and the artist

2. Dripping tar
There’s a great scene in Saugus Series, the 1974 film in Pat O’Neill’s show at Cherry and Martin, where colored tar drips down in front of a rocky landscape. O’Neill got this effect by setting up glass in front of a blue screen and pouring viscous tar over it. He then edited the footage, assigning different colors — red, yellow and blue — to the streams of tar, and then letting the colored tar fade away until it’s gone. “It’s like jumping out of a window,” the artist said, in a 2010 interview, of putting elements together and not having any specific idea about what they could or should mean. 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through March 28. (310) 559-0100, cherryandmartin.com.

1. Faded psychedelia
Theodora Allen’s paintings at Blum & Poe are faded like tie-dye T-shirts left in the sun too long, and the images they depict have a cryptic, psychedelic quality. It’s as if Allen’s source is an illuminated manuscript written by hippies, or maybe a vintage stack of tarot cards. In one grayish, blue and green painting, a snake coils upward through a stylized garden. In another, the bleached-out silhouette of a woman’s face floats inside a diamond that’s inside a circle. 2727 S. La Cienega, Culver City; through April 18. (310) 836-2062, blumandpoe.com

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