The insides of the human body are intensely intimate, and yet somehow so grotesquely unfamiliar. We manage to mostly ignore the fact that we each house a collection of tender, bloody organs because we are so rarely (if we’re lucky) confronted with their raw meatiness. The work of Alyssa Lempesis disrupts that bliss. Tug · gut, her current solo show at Aggregate Space (801 West Grand Ave., Oakland) captures all the textures and shapes that make us squirm because we’re so used to ignoring them. Through sculpture and video work, Lempesis evokes slimy excretions, gaping pores, overgrown hairs, jiggling blubber, and other aspects of organisms that we don’t want to see — but can’t look away from. Using unusual materials in even more unusual pairings, she invites the viewer into an oddly pleasurable discomfort zone where polyurethane foam, epoxy resin, concrete, and acrylic all mesh together in an awkward encounter. One end of the gallery is filled with an inflatable sculpture entitled “gulp,” which resembles a massive, blown-up surgical glove made for a hand with 25 fingers. Its numerous protrusions seem subtly perverted, and yet it’s difficult not to want to reach out and grab one.
To celebrate the fourth anniversary of Betti Ono (1427 Broadway, Oakland), gallery director Anyka Barber decided to reflect on the past by looking forward. For Amen, Oakland artists Amaryllis De Jesus Moleski and Kholi partnered to create a show that depicts an idealized present by envisioning it as a future history, with a focus on the inclusion of marginalized, queer people of color. The show features paintings by Moleski with poetry by Kholi interspersed among the works and written using cutout, water-colored letters, dreamily articulating the myth that Moleski illustrates. Moleski’s paintings collapse temporal context, telling a future that draws heavily from the past. The women she depicts float weightlessly, without a setting to restrain them. They have exaggerated proportions, with massive hands, feet, and large, powerful limbs, reminiscent of old renderings of Amazonian warrior women. They sport sneakers and 1980s-esque spandex getups, and hold guitars and gemmed scepters — all in a pastel palette. Moleski also used pastel-colored synthetic hair to weave a number of textiles emblazoned with ancient geometric symbols. She is interested in complicating the Western understanding of history and craft, showing that practices such as hair-braiding are just as culturally important as traditional artistic crafts. How will queer communities of color be remembered in the future? Together, Moleski and Kholi aim to answer that question through artistic determination.
East Bayizing the international tradition by which neighbors meet and eat in the moonlight, the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., Oakland) will hold its weekly night market on Friday: Off the Grid’s gourmet food trucks will offer artisanal local cuisine, with local beer and wine served in the Blue Oak beer garden. A Makers & Tasters discussion will bring together great minds in the brewing and gardening communities. Live music, dance lessons, a DJ, and an LGBT history tour of the museum help guests digest all that stout and kraut.