This week, an Yves Saint Laurent suit hangs in an elementary school, Marilyn Monroe sings in a Century City bathroom, and a group of writers revises a 1980s tome on looking your best.
5. OK, kids, get ready for fancy dresses!
Artist Shinique Smith traveled from New York to Los Angeles a few times this winter and spring to meet with students at Charles White Elementary School, to talk to them about her work and to invite them to help her make one of her hanging sculptures: fabrics mashed together, then suspended to look like unwieldy creatures. LACMA's education department spearheaded this effort, called “Firsthand,” and the best thing about it is that work Smith picked out from LACMA's collection — a bold, red and pink women's suit by Yves Saint Laurent, a ruffle-top evening dress by Bill Blass — has been on view at the elementary school's gallery along with collages by students there since February. 2401 Wilshire Blvd.; through July 19. (213) 487-9172, lacma.org.
4.The color in you
In 1981, Gerrie Pinckney and Marge Swenson, directors of the Fashion Academy of Southern California, wrote the book Your New Image: Through Color & Line. It offered the busy woman tips for improving her appearance, explaining which colors worked for certain seasons or enhanced certain figures. As part of the artist-run Monte Vista Project's “Reanimation Library,” where books no longer in circulation are given new life, writers assembled by Les Figues Press will spend an intensive two days this week remaking and republishing Your New Image “for today's busy image maker.” They will release and read from the book this weekend. 5442 Monte Vista St.; Sun., May 5, 3 p.m.; montevistaprojects.com.
3. Abstract art about making abstract art
One imperfectly painted silver canvas with tie-dyed pink cloth loosely attached to its surface angles across another silver canvas in the basement of Charlie James Gallery. The middles of both canvases are cut open to reveal unsubstantial wood supports beneath. Artist William Powhida calls this kind of art “Informalism,” as the note — or rather, the realistic rendering of a note drawn on a white wood panel — that hangs beside it explains: “This abstract art about making abstract art is everywhere. … Why? Maybe artists and collectors are tired of the complexity of the world.” Each work in the show, called “Bill by Bill,” fits a type and is accompanied by a note like this. But none of it has a snarky, “I've got you pegged” vibe. It feels like a skeptic's sincere attempt, through mimicking, categorizing, drafting and crafting, to figure out what's going on in art right now. 975 Chung King Road; through June 8. (213) 687-0844, charliejamesgallery.com.
2. Too much (war) information
The Annenberg Space for Photography's “War/Photography” exhibition is sensory overload: Images from the late 1800s to now, categorized under “Death,” “Support” or “The Fight,” hang one atop another on both sides of the space's circular corridor. In the round screening room in the center, photographer Joäo Silva talks about the landmine that cost him both legs below the knee. Footage of Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” to troops in Korea plays on a small screen over the sink in the woman's bathroom. Then there are the individual images that sear their way into your psyche, like Hayne Palmour's photo of tattooed U.S. Cpl. Albert Martinez, mouth open and eyes closed, being baptized in a makeshift pool by a Navy chaplain in Kuwait. The cacophony, while exhausting, keeps “War” from seeming like a subject that can ever make sense. 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City; through June 2. (213) 403-3000, annenbergspaceforphotography.org.
1. A Surrealist fight
One night in 1923, notoriously hotheaded Surrealist Andre Breton hit the much smaller, less notorious Pierre de Massot with his cane. He did so because de Massot had, in his view, insulted the great Pablo Picasso. Artist Shana Lutker's study of this altercation, and other physical fights among Surrealists, loosely informed “The Bearded Gas,” her show at Susanne Vielmetter Projects. But you don't need to know that to feel the full effect of Lutker's installation. It's like a high-art version of Alice's Wonderland: Two stages, one on the floor, one suspended upside down from the ceiling, are in the first gallery. Between those stages is a mirror. In front of the mirror, a chrome globe and its pedestal lean, as if about to fall, and a ladder hovers above a set of white steps. In the second gallery, metal drapes hang from a slightly bowed pole, and wide rope winds along the wall. 6006 Washington Blvd.; through May 25. (310) 837-2117, vielmetter.com.