There's a suite of musicians playing on a loop in a hallway at LACMA right now and, downtown, two stoic dancers perform on cue five days a week.
5. Buildings look like boys, not girls
Architect Diana Agrest, who has written about male dominance of the architecture field and the impact that has on our buildings, has the seductive, free-ranging independence of a theorist and the pragmatism of a maker. She builds and designs but she also thinks a lot about why the world looks the way it does. She began working in New York in the 1970s, and was a fellow at the man-centric Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies, the subject of the documentary she just made. She'll discuss architects, women and the world of intellectuals at the Kings Road Schindler House during a “fireside talk” hosted by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. 835 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs., Feb. 20, 7 p.m. (323) 651-1510, makcenter.org.]
4. Rock stars near elevators
Linda Komaroff, head of LACMA's Art of the Middle East department, recently acquired Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj's My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume I for the museum. It includes footage of nine musicians known by the artist, some more famous than others, playing against patterned fabric and wearing fantastic, comfortable-looking costumes Hajjaj made for them. Hajjaj filmed each separately but you see all of them at once, each inhabiting his or her own colorful rectangle and taking turns making music. The multichannel video currently plays in a narrow corridor on the third floor of LACMA's Ahmanson building, by the elevators. It's awkward to see it in that space but interesting, too, because it seems indicative of the still-marginal place contemporary Middle Eastern art holds in most U.S. museum collections. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; ongoing. (323) 857-6010, lacma.org.
3. Dancing with furniture
Pablo Bronstein built oversize, rough replicas of 18th-century obelisks, cupboards and other things, and then painted them maroon, badly. When you first enter the gallery at REDCAT, these objects are offputtingly garish, with their formality and flourishes. This changes, though, when a dancer – either Jos McKain or Rebecca Bruno, who take turns performing from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday – starts taking apart and rearranging the pieces of furniture, turning them into abstract set pieces before beginning to dance. The garishness doesn't go away, but now it's like wandering into an exaggerated version of the past and being given a carefully choreographed tour. 631 W. Second St., dwntwn.; through March 15. (213) 237-2800, redcat.org.
2. Outdoing Madame Bovary
The women in Eugène Grasset's The Morphine Addict and Paul-Albert Besnard's similarly titled Morphine Addicts have defiant features and needles in their hands. Made in Paris at the end of the 19th century, the images are like film stills pulled from dark dramas. They're in the Hammer's beautifully installed “Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880-1914,” a show of prints and drawings mostly made by men and highly romanticized, even though their female subjects sometimes seem more painfully restless and ready to rebel than Emma Bovary ever did. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Wstwd.; through May 18. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
1. Beard on a cart
One of the first objects you see in “Unsparing Quality,” curated by artist Farrah Karapetian at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, is My Barbarian's bust of Helen. The mythic Greek beauty has white wavy hair and a papier-mâché face that's pasty and haughty. Soon, you'll also see Robert Therrien's No title (Beard cart II), and the white plaster beard that hangs from two hooks attached to a steel stand may remind you of Helen's hair. Though it's thicker, it drapes similarly and reads as another quirky take on some myth or folk tale – maybe it's the beard of a god or a mountain man. The show, which includes 50-plus artworks but doesn't ever overwhelm, propels you forward like that, by making the work feel as if it's all part of the same unfolding experiment in storytelling. 831 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd.; through March 22. (323) 397-9225, dianerosenstein.com.
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