This week, one artist turns pop icons into haunting, dripping messes and another visits a burning volcano again and again.
5. Do architects believe in truth?
“I've been told to tell you that the slides are out of focus intentionally,” said architect Tom Mayne in 1976, introducing a lecture by his colleague Coy Howard. After Howard got up in front of the audience at SCI-Arc, he began by addressing Pico Boulevard: “You consist of asphalt, cement and largely cheapish small buildings. … You jerk through the city, stoplight to stoplight, like a blunt knife through an unfeeling body.” Then a woman interrupted, telling Howard to raise his right hand and swear to tell nothing but the whole truth before he went on to talk about his fellow architects, whom he said probably didn't really believe in truth. Mayne, who won the Pritzker Prize for architecture in 2005, and Howard will give the keynote lecture at SCI-Arc's symposium on architecture's past and future this weekend. 960 E. Third St., dwntwn.; Fri., June 14, 3-9 p.m., and Sat., June 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (213) 613-2200, sciarc.edu.
4. A set that needs no actors
New York artist Leidy Churchman's small paintings of an ambulance, a sky-blue rectangle against a gray one and a devil hang in colored frames on the walls of Human Resources, with L.A. artist Math Bass' sculptures arranged on the floor. There's a column made of brand-new garden pots, faux animal skins, an orange-and-black spotted tarp draped over an armature we can't see and a red flag that casts a shadow across the wall beneath one of Churchman's paintings. The track lights hang low, from wires suspended from the ceiling, and the dim lighting makes the space feel like a set. But the objects and images in this collaborative show are more players than props — their interactions are the story. 410 Cottage Home St.; through June 30. (213) 290-4752, humanresourcesla.com.
3. Brightness with a backbone
Yunhee Min used a squeegee to apply acrylic paint to the linen-covered frames and the tubes of fluorescent lights standing vertically in her current exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Projects in Culver City. Although the colors she uses — ultramarine blue, yellow, orange, fuchsia — are buoyant, the thick strokes the squeegee makes have a muscular forcefulness to them. Min calls her show, and all the work in it, “Into the Sun,” but her version of sunniness reminds me of that story about artists Vija Celmins and Ken Price critiquing sunsets together in the 1970s. It's the sunniness of someone who believes radiance can be judged and mastered. 6006 Washington Blvd.; through July 6. (310) 837-2117, vielmetter.com.
2. Controlled burn
Over five years, Tokyo-based artist Rinko Kawauchi photographed the volcanic Mount Aso. The caved-in surface of the volcano leaves a caldera, or cauldronlike hole, the dried grass on which is burnt every year to prepare the land for the cattle that will graze there. In Kawauchi's large images, on view at Rose Gallery, orange and golden yellow flames interrupt an otherwise subdued brown landscape and smoke interrupts dark blue skies. Or a line of orange divides a hill that's half burnt black and half dried brush. Its effect isn't romantic or melodramatic, though. The burning, shown in different ways and from different perspectives across Kawauchi's series, is systematic, a functional act that's accidentally gorgeous. 2525 Michigan Ave., G5; through June 18. (310) 264-8440, rosegallery.net.
1. The chair fights back
Joyce Pensato started drawing Batman in 1976, when she was a student at the Studio School in New York. She had begun to collect pop paraphernalia to use as her subjects — she had a cardboard cutout of Batman on the floor and a chair sitting on top of it. So in her loose charcoal drawing Batman Chair I, the superhero is struggling to get up, limbs flailing, one hand grasping for the wooden chair's seat. In Batman Chair II, it's like they're wrestling, and it's hard to tell the chair's legs from Batman's. These and some massive, messy new paintings of Batman, enamel dripping down from his mask, are in Pensato's Santa Monica Museum of Art exhibition “I Killed Kenny,” named after the South Park character who dies again and again. 2525 Michigan Ave., G1, Santa Monica; through Aug. 17. (310) 586-6488, smmoa.org.