This week, an irreverent painter tells the story of the universe and a fantastic photo of a faux rock house features in a Santa Monica exhibition.
5. Hair power
A woman with newly braided cornrows sits on a beige couch and turns her head regally from right to left, then to center. When her eyes meet the camera, she raises her eyebrows and sticks out her tongue. This mix of reverence and fun is what makes video artist Akosua Adoma Owusu's Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful -- a video made up of vintage footage featuring black hair being done up or shown off -- so charming. It shows as part of "The Black Radical Imagination" at REDCAT this week. 631 W. Second St., dwntwn.; Oct 7, 8:30 p.m.; $10. (213) 237-2800, redcat.org.
4. Walk-in rock
Patrick Painter Gallery has a number of Mike Kelley's photos, and it shows them from time to time, especially those great purple-ish stalagmite pictures the late artist took in the 1990s. But one I've never seen is hanging in the gallery's foyer right now. It's 5 feet wide and shows a building in the shape of a rock and manufactured to look like a rock on an overgrown lot along the Detroit River. It's autumn and there's a soft haze across the image. A figure lurks in the faux rock's doorway, seemingly hesitant to enter. The scene's entirely ordinary yet entirely alien, a combination that makes it haunting. 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; through Oct. 13. (310) 264-5988, patrickpainter.com.
3. The ravens
Susan Silas' found birds series involves, as the title suggests, finding birds on sidewalks, alleys or lots. They've already died by the time Silas takes them home to photograph over a period of time. Often she treats them like sacred specimens, placing them against a white backdrop and photographing them as though they're objects. But in a new body of images on view in her show "Raven" at CB1 Gallery, Silas caught the birds in motion. You see the tip of a wing, or half a torso slightly blurred against gray. It's hard to tell whether the ravens are moving or the camera is, and it's also hard to tell if they're living or dead. It's very clear, though, that they're caught up in something precarious and beyond their control. 207 Fifth St., dwntwn.; through Oct. 16. (213) 806-7889, cb1gallery.com.
2. Origin story
Judith Bernstein, the 70-something artist whose antiwar protest paintings and tributes to feminism have always been unapologetically crass, has a new show at the Box gallery. It's called "Birth of the Universe" and it features 18 large paintings in which pink caricatures of female genitalia dance across the canvases like cartoon characters. Since Bernstein used glow-in-the-dark paint on these, she'll give a black-light tour at the gallery this weekend. 805 Traction Ave., Little Tokyo; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m. (213) 625-1747, theboxla.com.
1. Class clown's social commentary
Some of the collaged-together paintings in Devon Troy Strother's show "Look at all my shit," on view at Richard Heller Gallery, have mouthfuls for titles. One of the longest belongs to the painting in which pitch-black figures with afros ride tangerine-colored cheetahs among multiple layers of zigzagging grass, bloodying each other with spears. It's called That National Geographic shit: "Guuuuuurl, we need to get out of this jungle tho, these nniggas are trip pin, I got a pantha and you got a cheetah, so let's see who's the lead!" It has the jaded, class-clown irreverence that Strothers is so good at channeling, as do a number of the other disco-meets-jungle works that feature in this new show. 2525 Michigan Ave., B-5A, Santa Monica; through Oct. 26. (310) 453-9191, richardhellergallery.com.
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