Most of us practice safe violence vicariously through movies and video games, but the enraged teabaggers who packed heat to town hall meetings this week show that our addiction transcends low-rent entertainment. Texas, we've got a problem. The title of this show, Insights of Life from the Shadows of Death, comes from James P. Anderson, a convicted San Quentin Death Row inmate believed by some to be unjustly convincted (and showing his symbolic surrealist paintings here), so perhaps we can be serious for a few minutes and confess that all of us consider violence a form of existential self-assertion and sometimes enjoy running joyously amuck, like Hyde released from stodgy Jekyll.
Curated by Lisa Rasmussen and Lauren Odell Usher, Insights features work in all media. The photographers include Steve Davis, who portrays incarcerated teens in Washington state; Lisa Rasmussen, who depicts aspects of a ritual healing; and Helene Fischman, who captures the squalid home of one Shimshon Klieger, of Auschwitz, Poland, a war survivor who lived, emotionally shattered, in the family home behind the synagogue until his death in 2000. Mixed media and installation are represented by Jais Booth, who likens her childhood experience of violence with the 2005 bombing of Iraq in "Flesh Burning"; Dorothy Nissen, who treats the war mythologically in "Duende + Cyclops at the Riverbank Near the Garden of Eden"; Mary Marnell, who pairs a photo of a Sudanese boy with an Iraqi's mournful judgment, "This war makes hearts like stone"; and Lisa Nowlain, who in her "Secret War Series" attempts to come to terms with the 1965-75 bombing of Laos: 260 million bombs dropped, nearly a third of which remain undetonated today — essentially land mines. The painters include Marc Watson, whose parricide-themed painting, "My Father's Sins," is both cartoonish and disturbing, as is Jose-Luis Segura's "War Child," depicting an African boy-soldier surrounded by bombed, strafed stick figures secreting bulbous ghosts. Karen Gutfreund merges mosque and church, Muslim and Christian, in "We Believe," with its typed chant, "There is no god but god." The show's two sculptors here make pithy points: David Warder Cumming's "American Exceptionalism" depicts three G.I. Joe dolls reconfigured into the familiar trio of blinkered monkeys; and Ehren Tool, a Gulf War vet, shows shelves full of scathing antiwar cups festooned with violence porn: weaponry, crosses, flags, slogans, dictators, generals, babes, and human remains. Red Door's community outreach gallery features artwork by members of BAYWAR (Bay Area Women Against Rape) and the Gorgeous Mosaic Foundation. Through August 30 at Red Door Gallery & Collective (416-26th St., Oakland). RedDoorGalleryandCollective.com or 510-292-7061
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