Exhibitions at the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley) consistently situate artists as the mediators between citizens and economic and environmental issues. The gallery’s third annual juried exhibition, Reimagining Progress, features works that examine the current state of our system of consumption and the potential for more sustainable alternatives. While many of the works are visually gripping, those with applicable concepts underlying their form are the most thought-provoking. Kathryn Kenworth’s “Trade-O-Mat” is a reimagined vending machine that facilitates a bartering economy. A collection of local artworks is featured in five windows, each with a slot below that invites viewers to submit a card with their offer of a service in exchange for the piece. After the artist determines a fair exchange, the two will meet to make the trade. Aviva Knox’s “Authentic Apparel” features white T-shirts made by different companies, each with a tag that outlines the actual circumstances of labor that went into their production. Although Knox uses a shorthand that’s similar to that of normal tags, her tags hang twice as long as the shirts themselves. Collectively, these works impressively push the notions of production and offer an optimistic view of the potential for change.
Creating art may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of ways to bring about universal human rights. But art has the potential to build awareness both visually and emotionally. With this in mind, BAM/PFA has collaborated with the Human Rights Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the law school with the show Envisioning Human Rights: The Next Generation. The juried exhibition features student entries from across the UC system that represent a range of social justice issues. For example, UC Berkeley student Nick Randhawa’s crisply screen-printed portrait of Bolivian labor leader Domitila Chúngara calls for increased visibility of female activists and leaders around the world as part of his ongoing series The Woman Project. In conjunction with the show, BAM/PFA is also displaying a number of pieces from acclaimed Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series. The pairing places the student work in line with Botero’s intense depictions of infamous torture scenes that aim to ensure remembrance. Envisioning Human Rights has similar goals, but looks to the future, highlighting the next generation of activist artists.
Forrest Bess was a fisherman, painter, biological theorist, and self-proclaimed visionary who lived in near-isolation on the Texas Gulf Coast for most of this life. He consistently experienced hallucinations and visions that emerged through a unique vocabulary of symbols. Bess translated these symbols into paintings, rendered in rich pigments and rough textures that offer a visceral viewing experience. Many of these works are now on view at BAM/PFA (2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) in the fascinating show Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible. Bess believed that his visions pointed to a broader universal truth about collective consciousness. His theory involved the argument that by merging the two biological sexes through surgery — a procedure that he underwent himself — one could attain immortality. He spent years compiling his “thesis,” a book that outlined evidence for this theory. Bess’ “thesis” and his paintings corresponded crucially, but he was never given the opportunity to show them together before he died in 1977. Although the actual book is now lost, BAM/PFA is displaying an array of ephemera regarding his scholarship, along with his paintings, in order to offer the closest experience possible to the first full realization of Bess’ bizarrely beautiful vision.
Oakland failed to attract competitive bids for its garbage franchise and is now pushing a proposal that critics say includes exorbitant rate hikes, weak local job protections, and an inadequate composting plan.