This week, a painter takes on the weirdness of Bakersfield, an artist sends pictures made to last billions of years into orbit and an artist's biographer talks about why her subject is still being censored two decades after his death.
5. Whited-out activism
The prints from Juan Capistran's new show at Thomas Solomon Gallery are so white that, if you look at them online, you can't even tell what they depict. See them in person and you'll know one shows a white bottle in front of a white background, another a whited-out protest sign, and a third a chalky white clenched fist. The show, called “White Riot…be the beacon, be the light. KO'd by love” — KO'd as in “knocked out,” in boxing lingo — feels static and militant at the same time. It's like a rebel about to carry out some plan got caught in one of those quarantine zones they have on sci-fi shows like Fringe and frozen in space and time. 27 Bernard St., Chinatown; through Nov. 2. (323) 275-1687, thomassolomongallery.com.
4. The last pictures from Earth
When EchoStar XVI, a communication satellite, launches into space later this year, 100 images by artist Trevor Paglen will be on board. Paglen printed these images with the help of scientists at an MIT lab, working to make them as archival as possible. The idea is that, even after the satellite is defunct, like the hundreds of other outdated ones already orbiting in space, the images will survive. So maybe a billion years from now, some new civilization will find Paglen's “Last Pictures” — including one of dissident artist Ai Weiwei flipping off the Eiffel Tower. Paglen speaks about his spacebound pictures at LACMA this week. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; Tues., Oct. 9, 7 p.m. (323) 857-6010, lacma.org.
3. How to ruin Christmas
“This is an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season,” said a rep for Sen. Eric Cantor back in December 2010, referring to a video in “Hide/Seek,” a show about homosexuality in art history then up at the National Gallery. Artist David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992, made the lyrical but painful-to-watch video called Fire in My Belly about the horror of death and, less explicitly, the horror of being a person with AIDS shunned by the church. In it, insects crawl over a crucifix. The National Gallery did indeed remove it from the exhibition. Writer Cynthia Carr will talk about the Fire in My Belly controversy when she reads from her new biography of the contagiously angry, prolific Wojnarowicz at LACE. 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs., Oct. 4, 7 p.m. (323) 957-1777; welcometolace.org.
2. Ceiling-fan art
In the first room of Ei Arakawa's exhibition at Overduin & Kite, all the art is on the ceiling. Three faceless cloth figures wearing perfectly clean, brand-new shoes but hodge-podge outfits hang from three ceiling fans. Their arms, legs and heads are attached to the fan propellers but the clothing on their torsos hangs free. So the buttoned-down blue jacket of the figure closest to the door sometimes balloons out, making her look pregnant. One of them starts spinning, the other catches wind and start spinning, too. So sometimes they're all whipping around fast enough to makes your head spin, or sometimes one's slowed down to a crawl. 6693 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; through Oct. 22. (323) 464-3600, overduinandkite.com.
1. Honky-tonk painting
Bakersfield is a different kind of California, one that's kind of like a mix between Nashville and Texas. It's where Okies landed during the Dust Bowl, and there's a famous neon sign at a bar called Trouts that reads “The Bakersfield Sound,” referring to the music of Merle Haggard and other fiddle-wielding, Midwestern imports who settled in the city. When Mary Weatherford spent a few weeks in residence at Cal State Bakersfield, she made a series of paintings that's now on view at LAXART. Each one has a strip of neon about as thick as the neon at Trouts attached to it; behind the neon, there are big, rectangular splotches of color, sometimes earthy tones with bright pinks, blues and purples seeping out at the edges. They're ungainly but still pretty cool in their own special way, like Bakersfield itself. 2640 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City; through (323) 868-5893, laxart.org.