This week's selection feels refreshingly down-to-earth, even practical in its approach to both nitty-gritty issues, like holiday decor, and theoretical ones, like how to think about passing time.
5. Tree Library
It's often April before the last brown Christmas trees show up curbside in my neighborhood, which makes a Portable Forest Tree Library an especially good idea. Starting this week, at Highland Park's artist-run Monte Vista Projects, you'll be able to wander through a selection of live, potted evergreens and check out a holiday tree for free for two weeks at a time. Monte Vista Projects, 5442 Monte Vista St.; Nov. 19-Dec. 18 (last return Jan. 7); montevistaprojects.com.
4. Outdone by the Pro
Betye Saar's intimate installation Red Time has been up at Roberts & Tilton for a while, but a new exhibition that just opened in the gallery's main space makes Saar's look so much better. All assemblage and collage, most of the work is meant to pay homage to Saar, who came into her own with the racially charged assemblage she made in the 1970s. But it tries too hard. In contrast, Saar's all-red, shrinelike room, with Aunt Jemima figurines on top of red boxing gloves and crude drawings hung below an old-fashioned ladder, looks unpretentious and savvy, a slice of history from someone who really knows herself. Roberts & Tilton, 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City; through Dec. 17; (323) 549-0223; robertsandtilton.com.
3. Philosophy With Frosting
I didn't know I liked group exhibition “Time and Material” until I'd left. It feels unfinished. You're not sure if you're supposed to step past Sam Falls' big green tarp into the gallery space or stare down at Kyle Thurman's enamel-topped tables. But in the small back room, Joe Zorrilla's video shows slices of a white frosted cake awkwardly removed and then replaced in different spots over and over. The cake's never complete or consumed, which strikes me as a really accessible way of talking about indeterminacy. M+B, 612 N. Almont Drive, Beverly Hills; through Dec. 22; (310) 550-0050; mbart.com.
2. Who Needs 3-D?
When Paul Young moved into his second space in the gargantuan Pacific Design Center, he found a screening room in back, equipped with a projection booth, screen and slots for speakers. Now, New York artist Kurt Ralske's Avatar One-D, the whole feature film crushed into one pixel, plays in there on a 162-minute loop. In just that one pixel, you can sense how manipulative light, special effects and sound are posed to be. Young Projects at the Pacific Design Center, Space B210, 8687 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd.; through Jan. 6; (323) 377-1102; youngprojectsgallery.com.
1. Anti Fetish Finish
Artist Terry O'Shea went to show LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman his work in 1966, and pulled one piece after another out of his pockets. O'Shea got LACMA's New Talent Award but had mostly disappeared from the scene by the 1970s. Now, his pill-shaped and horizontal resin works, often made from material cast off by other L.A. artists, are at Cardwell Jimmerson. They're fun because they're everything 1960s fetish-finish resin work wasn't: small, debris-filled (flies float in some), non-aggressive. Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City; through Nov. 26; (310) 815-1100; cardwelljimmerson.com.