Going the Distance at Swarm, Royal NoneSuch, and Mercury 20 

Mixed-media shows explore the far away and long ago.


In Re-FABLE, two artists explore memory and history through photography, video, collage/assemblage, and installation. Amanda Williams combines old photos with snippets of handwriting and touches of yellow-ocher snuff in her collages on panel ("Like Great-Grandmother, Like Daughter," "3 Generations"): history defined as subjectivity. April Banks takes a similar approach in her Fourth Generation (Valley St.) encaustic/photo-transfer images, severely cropped, denoting memory's faultiness. She also inserts herself, Zelig-like, into the past, in a photo collage and a video both entitled "Make, Believe." A plaster frieze of violins ("Possession Is Nine Tenths"), or, rather, non-violins à la Nauman/Whiteread, based on a missing-heirloom family story, sounds a ghostly silence. Re-FABLE runs through May 22 at Swarm Gallery (560 2nd St., Oakland). 510-839-2787 or SwarmGallery.com.

With climate change and rising sea levels, Antarctica is topically hot these days. The eleven artists or artist teams in this show, curated by Stephanie Ellis, depict it with satire and whimsy, however, rather than austral gloom and watery doom. Examples: Susanna Corcoran's "My Island" photo of a blue mattress adrift on gray pavement; Madelyn Covey's crocheted "Glacier;" Seth Murshison's fake-fur "Bear Suit;" and multimedia science-project parodies by Michael Koehle, Kent Rodriguez Segura, Michael Mersereau, and Camilla Newhagen. Don't miss Sofia Sharpe's "The Rumor Mill," a small, wall-mounted iceberg made of paraffin wax sheltering a penguin rookery of painted barley grains. Antarctica runs through May 28 at Royal NoneSuch Gallery (4231 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). RoyalNoneSuchGallery.com.

Gyres are the five Texas-size (or larger) oceanic vortices of plastic particles, fatal food to marine life and not so great for terrestrials up the food chain (due to the absorption of chemicals). Yes, it's depressing, but the huge kinetic sculpture crafted by Kathleen King, Dave Meeker, and Laura van Duren, "The Gyre," raises our consciousness without dampening our spirits. A slowly rotating mobile water column full of wittily rendered critters (e.g., bubble-wrap starfish), it's funny, beautiful brain food. Meeker's trophy fish wrapped in discount-store plastic bags and crime-scene tape complete the curriculum; read the fact sheet, too. Charlie Milgrim's On the Precipice addresses the news metaphorically in pastel and oil-stick drawings entitled "Edge," "Escape" (both depicting orbs, symbols of perfect unity and fickle fortune), "Party Dresses," and "Twin Towers" (depicting hourglass/torso/apple-core forms based on nuclear cooling stacks). "Ancient Rain" continues Milgrim's run of bowling-ball-sculpture strikes. "Gyre" and Precipice run through May 28 at Mercury 20 Gallery (475 25th St., Oakland). 510-701-4620 or MercuryTwenty.com

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