In the Galleries June 13-20, 2007 

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

The Art of Food — K Gallery, in Alameda's newly opened Rhythmix Cultural Center, is hosting a food-themed exhibit. Works by six artists are on display, some tending more toward grotesque fascination than reverence, some purely irreverent. Janet Delaney's photographs bring into focus the abjection of food: discarded bits of chopped meat, a spoon digging into disturbingly fleshy fruit. Gail Skoff's black-and-white photos of produce call to mind those inelegant human zones we tend to keep covered up. And yet the lushness of the objects is also fully apparent, and Delaney and Skoff's eye for light and texture draws you into these gorgeous grotesqueries. Guy Diehl and Wendy Yoshimura show, on the other hand, a reverence for fruit's ripe beauty — Diehl's in homage to Renaissance still life, Yoshimura's through shimmeringly rendered watercolor prints of fruit in glass bowls. Charlene Milgrim's piece brings the most irreverent of foods into the gallery, displaying four Jell-O molds of the continental United States (one bright blue, three lurid red) atop a map of the world. (Through July 29 at Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda; Rhythmix.org or 510-845-5060.)

Constructions — Each artist in this Berkeley Art Center show uses a combination of found objects and the usual artists' tools (gesso, paint, acrylics) to create pieces that speak to "memory, loss, whimsy, regret." Thomas Morphis creates a layered effect by attaching images atop and behind thick glass panes, producing what he terms a "subtle 3-dimensionality." The strong verticals in his works allude to the struggle that the series is named for: "Peniel" — the site where Jacob wrestled with the angel. Some of Marya Krogstad's pieces are almost lovely in their sarcasm (the sculptural "Pouring Strings" is a sensuous waterfall of polypropylene film, fishing line, and cotton string), but the clanging note of anger that underlies her pieces can be a bit like fingernails on a blackboard. (Through July 1 at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., Berkeley; BerkeleyArtCenter.org or 510-644-6893.)

Demolition or "Civic Pride Through Civic Improvement" — This exhibition at the Oakland Main Library commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of urban renewal in Oakland. It features archival documents detailing the many attempts to economically and aesthetically improve the city. From Governor Earl Warren's Redevelopment Act of 1945 to 2005 proposals to improve the waterfront, the exhibit demonstrates that dry mix of hope, financial incentive, competing senses of enfranchisement and disenfranchisement, and ultimate discouragement that characterizes so many not-quite-realized grand urban projects. (Through September 15 at 125 14th St., Oakland; OaklandLibrary.org or 510-328-3222.)

Measure of Time — This exhibit purports to be a meditation on time and duration; viewers aren't absolutely certain whether this is an excuse to bring out some of the museum's permanent collection, or a cohesive thematic. There are some excellent pieces, including Sol LeWitt's "A Sphere Lit from the Top, Four Sides, and All Their Combinations," Jim Campbell's "Shadow (for Heisenberg)," and Shirley Shor's newly acquired "Landslide." (Through June 24 at 2626 Bancroft Way; BAMPFA.berkeley.edu or 510-624-0808.)

Nancy Flores — No, you haven't walked into an exhibit of Jack Vettriano's lesser known works. Java Rama Coffee Shop is showing Nancy Flores' paintings, which demonstrate her fascination with glamour and a dancer's appreciation for the svelte and muscular female form. The subjects of the paintings fill the frames but never look directly at the viewer, thus drawing your attention to a well-formed back, the trim outlines of a tiny belly, or the streamlined shape of a deceptively powerful calf. Plenty of evening gowns and diamonds grace the bodies of these women, signaling their privilege, and their hidden faces provide the same distance from the riff-raff gawkers that the guard at the entrance of a gated community would. (Through August 31 at 1333 Park St., Alameda; 510-523-2116.)

Panopticon — Sham Saenz references Jeremy Bentham's design for a prison organized around the tyranny of the visible in this show. In a Panopticon, the guards, shrouded in a central tower, were able to see all the prisoners, whose cells were arranged concentrically around the tower; because of the guards' invisibility, no single prisoner could know if he was being watched at any given time. Saenz' works — particularly "Panopticon" and "Polypenance" — vividly convey this sense of paranoid anxiety. He places his figures in semiliteral prison spaces, but ones schematized like blueprints and colored in vibrant and garish hues. In "Pennsylvania" (the state that hosts one of the few built prisons modeled closely on the Panopticon), he also reinterprets Bentham's original plan in these same colors, bringing a sense of shocking visibility to what usually masks itself in drab institutional shades. (Through June 29 at Mama Buzz Gallery, 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; MamaBuzzCafe.com or 510-465-4073.)

200 Second Street — It is hard not to be snide about a so-called mural project that is entirely contained within a complex of condos selling for $650 a square foot. Indeed, this "dedication to neighborhood beautification" seems to be entirely for the benefit of those possessing the entry code to this mini-gated community. The murals, serve as much a selling point as the stainless-steel kitchen appliances and the 114-square-foot decks. That being said, the two murals — if you ever get to see them — are quite nice. Each spans the two floors of wall space opposite the elevators; Andrew J. Schoultz' "Regeneration" is a orchard of trees exploding fluorescent leaves from their branches and severed limbs, while Casey Jex Smith's "Polarized" is a captivating semipointillist work of black-and-white topography, a brightly colored box-kite-like object floating overhead. (At 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: SwarmStudios.net or 510-839-2787.)

Excavations Johansson Projects, the newest gallery space in downtown Oakland, hosts this homage both to nature's infinitely complex creations and the infinite imagination of the artist. Misako Inaoka's moss sculptures — the green and pleasant land of "Moss Ceiling" and the fuzzy tactility of "Moss Block" — are both attractive and slightly creepy, as are her Frankensteinian birds, which include those double-headed or double-tailed, or with flowers or push pins sprouting from their heads, tweeting tinnily as you walk by. Scott Oliver's "The Valley" is a gorgeous if unwieldy piece. Formed entirely from an overstuffed chair he found at the dump, it features a studiously rendered wall sculpture of Hetch Hetchy. The innards of the chair form the striated cliffs, the faded green fabric is torn into tiny trees, and all spill from the destroyed chair that almost invites you to take a seat. Also worth the visit are Yvette Molina's oil renderings of flora painted onto sheets of aluminum and Andrew Benson's acrylic landscapes patchworked into chaos. (Through June 30 at 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; JohanssonProjects.com or 415-999-9140.)

Excavations, continued — Johansson Projects' "Excavations" show continues into Ego Park's gallery space, featuring works by Mark Brest van Kempen, John Roloff, and Lewis de Soto. These artists take aim more pointedly at municipal "nature" projects. Van Kempen's more-tongue-in-cheek work includes "Bad Weather Zone," a model for an area in which bad weather — complete with lightning, thunder, and downpours — would suddenly and periodically unleash itself on motorists, and "Free Tree." The latter is a small tree in a wooden box on wheels, a small notice declaring that it has "had all legal ownership relinquished and does not belong to any person or entity." De Soto and Roloff's work includes plans for the Estuary Lake Merritt Channel Project (which have been submitted as part of an actual proposal), and includes a tank with reflected roman lettering, sediment, and a barnacle or two. (Through June 30 at 492 23rd St., Oakland; EgoPark.org or 415-999-9140.)

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    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
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