American Me 

But with a Viet flavor


Want to party with some quiet Asian engineering majors who love to fondle their cellos? Well, too bad. A dozen young, loud Vietnamese artists from across the Bay Area will supply everything from enormous gangster tattoos to sixteen-string zithers and a live hip-hop duo this Saturday during Recollect at the Oaklandish Gallery. The fledgling one-year-old Vietnamese Artists Collective presents the visual-musical showcase to boost East Bay exposure for upcoming Vietnamese creators, though the art is decidedly American. "We draw from the culture, but that's not all there is," says painter Tan Khanh, a veteran exhibitor and Bay Area native. "I appreciate that the group is Vietnamese, but I feel like it's a great opportunity to just meet other artists." Self-taught, Khanh paints high-contrast, bright-color, semi-abstract figures with a keen eye for power icons. Hearts, bulls, top hats, and lovers swirl in strong hues of red and blue in Untitled.

If oil on canvas isn't your thing, thug-tattoo artist An Tran of San Jose's Guru Tattoo will show off some ink on skin. Tran presents photos and live models of his ink work, featuring ancient mandalas and immense, back-sprawling dragons. Artists Collective organizer Ly Nguyen says Tran reworks ancient Asian symbols, mixing high and low art forms and blurring the difference: "That's why the collective is here. There's artists like Tran where gangster tattoos aren't seen as fine art. For us it's really important to represent that section." The Bay Area holds the second-largest population of Vietnamese in the country, Nguyen says, and a new post-Vietnam-War generation is growing up much more liberal and assimilated than their parents. This generation is trying to reclaim a little of what was lost when their parents fled, while rebelling against the model-minority stereotype they created in America.

Ain't my skin yellow?/So what am I doin' rapping/I should be playing the cello, raps Derek "Direct" Khan, who'll play the event as one half of the male-female hip-hop duo Magnetic North with Theresa Vu. "Hip-hop, freestyling, beats, it's sort of a rare thing," Nguyen says. "A lot of their music is about that: breaking the mold having the courage to do it." Later that night, DJs My Lai, Roza, and VNA take over the show until 1 a.m. Cost is $7-$20. Oaklandish is at 411 2nd St., Oakland. Info: -- David Downs


Mirror Ball

Take a good look

It's mirrors up, fronts down at Nikki! A Study of Narcissism in Art, curated by Buzz Gallery's Nicole Neditch for LoBot Gallery (1800 Campbell St., Oakland). For the show, Oakland Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gregory Edwards, Rent Girl illustrator Laurenn McCubbin, Haight St. window designer Janae Growden, Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon, and many others explore "the idea of transforming the image of ourselves into art." Friday's opening party starts at 8 p.m., costs $5, and features music by the Nervous Breakdowns, Little Cat, DJs Prozack Turner and Magic Martinez, and more TBA. -- Stefanie Kalem

Thu 1/13

Please Extinguish All Life Forms

Ever get the feeling that planet Earth is riding for a fall? That the Big One is just around the corner? That the world will end before you pay off your credit-card bills? You're not alone, bunky. Peter Roopnarine, curator of paleontology and geology at the California Academy of Sciences, harbors such thoughts himself, and he'll let them all hang out Thursday evening (7 p.m.) at Cal State Hayward's Concord Campus (4700 Ygnacio Valley Rd.), in a talk he amusingly titles Communities Fall Apart: Life in Times of Extinction. Something about Earth being on the verge of its sixth mass extinction -- and of course it's the result of human activities. Phone 925-602-6772 for more info. -- Kelly Vance


Paradise on the Hudson

In Sandow Birk's contemporary reworking of Dante Alighieri's epic poem The Divine Comedy, Los Angeles is the Inferno, San Francisco is the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso is ... wait for it ... New York City. The satirical update on the 14th-century masterpiece replaces Dante's text with modern vernacular, and plays riffs on Gustave Dore's original illustrations with irreverent paintings, drawings, and lithographs by Birk, a Southern California artist (so he should know about LA). Starting Saturday at the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, the newly completed Paradiso is on display, alongside a rare first edition of the Dante/Dore Divine Comedy from the museum's collection. -- Kelly Vance


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