Summer is group show season, which means lots of loosely thematic gallery exhibitions have just opened and will open soon. Some of them aren't bad.
5. The history of the earth
The same year Robert Smithson made his 1,500-foot Spiral Jetty, a pile of mud, salt crystal and rock that spiraled out from the shore into the Great Salt Lake, he made a film about making Spiral Jetty. In it, he wanted one shot to tell the history of the Earth, so he asked his wife, artist Nancy Holt, to film while he climbed up high in a quarry. He dropped down pages torn from a world atlas, so that what we knew of Earth's history was raining down onto rocks and mud. Years later, in 2007, filmmaker James Benning made Casting a Glance, a film about Smithson's Jetty. The work had by that point disappeared under salt water, then re-emerged with changed texture and color. Benning shows how Jetty had changed since 1970 and how it changed more gradually over the year and a half he filmed. Both Smithson's and Benning's films screen at MOCA on Thursday. To be fair, they're really boring, but boring in the way that meditation is: If you surrender yourself to their monotonous, meandering, hypnotic musings on the Earth's surface, you might actually start to feel euphoric.Ahmanson Auditorium, 250 S. Grand Ave.; Thurs., July 12, 7 p.m.; $12, free for MOCA and L.A. Filmforum members. moca.org.
4. Painting the sky blue
The tiny show in Steve Turner's upstairs gallery considers windows and not much else. Veteran L.A. artists Joe Goode and John Divola and newcomer Sayre Gomez try their hand at creating images that make you feel you're looking out and in at the same time. Goode's sky-blue painting from 1973 is my favorite. It's framed by a simple wood rectangle, and would resemble the view out an airplane window if the canvas weren't torn in places to reveal the board beneath. 6026 Wilshire Blvd.; through Aug. 4. (323) 931-3721, steveturnercontemporary.com.
3. Mutant photographs
In Lucas Blalock's prints, it often seems like something — a person or a creature — is writhing around beneath the surface. He has three images in Richard Telles Fine Art's summer show, “Formwandler” — one of a gingham cloth that's rippling, warping and fracturing in the middle. Artist Dan Finsel has a photograph in the show, too, a huge black-and-white image of a shrouded sculpture, which also looks like it could come to life at any moment. 7380 Beverly Blvd.; through Aug. 18. (323) 965-5578, tellesfineart.com.
2. A little attitude on La Cienega
Culver City's gallery row, especially the La Cienega stretch, is appallingly bland. Nearly all the buildings are squat and square, with beige, gray or white facades. So the mural painted on the side of LAXART by Slanguage Studio — headed by artists Karla Diaz and Mario Ybarra Jr. — and their 777 Crew of artists really is a welcome interruption. It has a “W” hand sign above the gallery's door (likely a reference to the team's hometown of Wilmington), an upside-down crying eye, wax dripping from candles that stand amidst oil refineries and a few planets and stars floating close to the skyline. 2640 S. La Cienega Blvd.; through Sept. 2. (323) 868-5893, laxart.org.
1. Bread to last a lifetime
Artist Egan Frantz made three baguettes that will last forever by dousing real bread in epoxy resin. Currently, they hang vertically on the walls of Roberts and Tilton gallery. The one with the skinniest bottom hangs between two huge paintings — one by Noah Davis of a ghostly white sheet flying underneath a vaulted, gilded ceiling and one by Marisa Mandler of streaks of bleach running down black paper. Another baguette hangs next to Ed Templeton's photograph of a naked woman wearing a mechanical arm with red stripes inked all over her body. The third is next to the glaring, balding, mouthless man Betye Saar placed in the center of a gray hankie. Instead of lightening the show up, the scrawny sticks of bread begin to seem serious and slightly dark, like the rest of the art. 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City; through July 28. (323) 549-0223, robertsandtilton.com.