This week, an artist makes deadpan jokes in vintage photographs, whistlers convene in Glendale and a Japanese novelist's tragedy of frustrated love is re-staged in Mexico.
5. Crowd of copycats
It's not yet certain how many people will participate in artist Sara Roberts' Clump and Whistle, a group performance at Glendale's Civic Center, but it shouldn't be more than 100, the number Roberts chose as her cut-off point. Clump and Whistle will work in the way the wave works at a football game, only with whistles. One person blows out a quick tune on one of the multitone whistles Roberts has provided, then the person next to him or her mimics the tune and so on until this tune has spread -- like a wave -- through the crowd. Two rehearsals precede this weekend's event, which means the effect will be at least slightly honed. Glendale Civic Center Plaza, Broadway and Glendale Boulevard; Sun., May 19, 1 p.m.; RSVP requested. machineproject.org.
4. Last Supper on Day of the Dead
In Sausalito-based artist Christiane Lyon's oil paintings, on view at MJ Briggs Gallery on Fairfax, quirky cultural references dissolve into loose gestures. At the top of Tinman, for example, Lyon has rendered a very flat, boldly colored Orthodox view of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples, but the figures then merge with loosely drawn skeleton figures, and by the bottom of the page, all you see is a chalky expanse of black. 313 N. Fairfax Ave; through May 25. (323) 651-1132, mjbriggs.com.
3. What's fame got to do with it?
"We all have attention deficit disorder," artist John Baldessari said two years ago, talking about his 2011 project Your Name in Lights. The names of 100,000 would flash onto an LED marquee hung on the Australian Museum's façade, staying there for 15 seconds, because in the Internet age our 15 minutes of fame have sped up. Anyone interested could register online to have his or her name on the marquee. L.A. artist Susan Silton registered, but entered the name of an artist who had committed suicide instead of her own, and asked other L.A. artists to do the same. In all, 59 artists did this, so Baldessari's flash-in-the-pan consideration of ADHD fame became in part a meditation on difficult memories. Silton, who captured screenshots of each deceased artist's name as it appeared on the Your Name in Lights livestream, made a book that includes the images and short biographies of each artist involved. The book launch at MOCA this Saturday will also include a number of short performances. 250 S. Grand Ave.; Sat., May 18, 2 p.m. (213) 626-6222, moca.org.
2. No one got the joke
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Before William Wegman became famous for wryly photographing his dog, a Weimaraner named Man Ray, he'd accumulated an equally wry series of self-portraits. A number of vintage black-and-white prints of Wegman's photographs from the 1970s, all of them paired with text, currently hang at Marc Selywn Fine Art. In one, called, As a Joke..., a man wearing a plain white T-shirt sits in a chair while Wegman, also in a white shirt, walks by. The caption reads, "As a joke he put his T-shirt on Backward." In a second image, Wegman is nearly out of the frame and the man in the chair looks up quizzically: "No one got it," this second caption says. 6222 Wilshire Blvd.; through July 6. (323) 933-9911, marcselwynfineart.com
1. Can you be beautiful if you're awkward and embarrassed?
"Has anyone ever recoiled when you tried to kiss them?" Alex Segade asks Wu Tsang in Mishima in Mexico, a film the artists made together, in which they play artists planning to make a film based on Yukio Mishima's novel Thirst for Love. Wu Tsang says yes, "but that doesn't mean they weren't into it." Though smoothly and lyrically shot, the film allows for plenty of pettiness and awkward digressions. It screens in the back room -- a room where lighting changes from green to purple to off-white while you watch -- at Michael Benevento gallery now, as part of Wu Tsang's first L.A. solo show. The rest of the work has a similar surface beauty, so the awkward embarrassments of the narratives in Tsang's photographs and films catch you off guard. 7578 Sunset Blvd.; through July 7. (323) 874-6400, beneventolosangeles.com.