This week, one artist turns a downtown gallery into an eerie laboratory, another talks about a charged project she did in Belfast, and three more free art shows you should see in L.A. this week.
Chic torture trap
Little flames flicker from oil lamps clamped to the metal poles that weave through Elaine Cameron-Weir’s current exhibition at Venus Over Los Angeles. The whole environment is eerily, chicly clinical, like the lab of a mad scientist who frequents Paris Fashion Week. Petri dishes sit on minimally designed steel and stone tables, and shellacked, thick ribbons of snake scales descend from ceiling to floor. The show takes its title from these scales: “snake with sexual interest in its own tail.” Near the industrial gallery’s garage door, there’s an oddly shaped steel tub with sand at the bottom. A man’s weathered shirt and pants, bulky in a way that makes you imagine an invisible body inside them, hover above the sand. Each leg and arm is chained to the tub’s rim. It’s a vague torture scene, more violent than anything else in the show but just as strikingly pared down and well executed. 601 S. Anderson St., downtown; through April 30. (323) 980-9000, venusovermanhattan.com.
L.A. native Richard Pettibone was young when the Pasadena Art Museum hosted a particularly iconic show: the first retrospective of French artist Marcel Duchamp. Credited with inventing the "readymade" (e.g., the famous urinal, titled “Fountain,” which the wily character debuted in 1917), Duchamp made an impression. Pettibone’s current show at Honor Fraser pays homage to him and a few other midcentury big shots, presenting intricate miniature replicas of their work. A version of Duchamp’s bicycle wheel on a stool sits in a far gallery. The replicas are perhaps the conceptual-art equivalent to model airplanes. There must be some thrill in remaking revered, purportedly innovative objects for yourself, so that you can own them and tweak them as you see fit. 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through April 23. (310) 837-0191, honorfraser.com.
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Back in time
On the final day of her exhibition “Other and Father" at ltd Los Angeles, artist Mariah Garnett will give a talk and show some of her research material, videos she found in Belfast and experimental films that inspired her. Her exhibition is in large part informed by footage she found of her long-estranged father in Belfast in the early 1970s, when he had shaggy red hair and a Catholic girlfriend. Since he was Protestant and Northern Ireland was violently sectarian at the time, their relationship piqued the interest of producers at the BBC, who featured the couple in an exaggerated, reductive documentary. Garnett re-enacted the documentary herself, reshooting all the scenes and playing her father, mimicking his haircut, clothing and mannerisms. She’s still working on this project about her father, and she’s adept at talking about how politics and personal experience intertwine. 7561 W. Sunset Blvd., Ste. 103, Hollywood; Wed., April 16, 5-7 p.m. (323) 378-6842, ltdlosangeles.com.
L.A. artist Stanya Kahn had a show in New York last year called “Die Laughing.” It included somewhat esoteric joke paintings, some of them “dick jokes.” In one, a voice asks, “Did it work?” A naked witch, with penises growing all over her body, just not near her own nether regions, replies, “Yes and no.” In another, a penis-shaped bulge approaches a microphone. “Is this thing on? If you got the time, I got the space.” Now Kahn is releasing a book called “Die Laughing,” and will give an R-rated reading from it this weekend at her local gallery, Susanne Vielmetter Projects. 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City; April 16, 3-5 p.m. (310) 837-2117, vielmetter.com.
Hide and seek
In Linda Franke’s current exhibition at MaRS Gallery, dining room chairs have long, thin legs, so that they resemble spiders. A coffee table has been squeezed between bulging pink pillows big enough to hide a few bodies inside. A vintage cabinet stands in front of a mysterious mound of green carpet. There’s just enough order to keep the show from feeling like a domestic disaster zone. Instead, Franke’s installation conjures a squat, an outlaw living space built by people who’ve been salvaging stuff from middle-class neighborhoods and making it so their belongings double as hiding places.
649 S. Anderson St., downtown; through April 23. (323) 526-8097, marsgallery.net.