In the Galleries 

Our critics weigh in on local art.

For complete, up-to-date East Bay art listings, look under Billboard on the home page for the "Select Category" pulldown, then select "Art Galleries" or "Museums."

The Chess Set -- Four thousand dollars for a crying ceramic unicorn head on top of a huge chess piece? Come on. Sculptor Jane Grimm fuels disdain for public art with sixteen human-size ceramic chess pieces that try to take advantage of the boring, gray-tiled lobby of the Oakland Museum of California at City Center Sculpture Court. -- D2 (Through August 10 at 1111 Broadway, Oakland; 510-238-2200.)

Mama Buzz Presents: Ian Greeb -- Cracked Dr. Seussian-creature conjurer Greeb caught a lucky bump during his first solo show's opening night last week when hundreds of gallery-crawling visitors in the area poured into Mama Buzz and discovered his odd bestiary. Formerly hidden on Greeb's Web site,, 27 bioethical abominations leap out of the browser as sanded, carved, and brightly painted foam beasts infesting the gallery walls. Huge skeletal spiders and flies with tumorous smiling mouths crawl up the ceiling. A row of what looks like Cooties, from the board game, probes one another as a plush pink kitten doll erupts eyeballs and teeth. Comments on the site range from "This is stupid" to "You should do children's books" to undulating praise. As to what type of mind could have conceived such work, Greeb podcasted his thoughts on the show's opening, saying "The only way the show could've been more of a success would be if I was rolling in a fat cow of money." Imagine that. -- D2 (Through August 31 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-465-4073.)

New Works on Site -- Think big: bright colors, iconic forms, iPod posters. Now spin that through the minds of two Oakland-obsessed artists who work together as Justin Artifice and you have 21 Grand's latest New Works. Oh, and Steve Lambert does some nice stuff about Lawrence Livermore Lab, too. It's just that Justin Artifice always upstages. Last winter, J.A.'s Geoff Dorn and Tim Martinez painted Sunrise Over Oakland, a twenty-foot-tall photorealist multicolored portscape that seared the Richmond Arts Center with orange and green. This time, their consistent, clear eye strips the city of everything but the jalopy junk trucks that buzz around with axles bent under cardboard, junk, and metal. Photorealist jalopy outlines get the blow-up treatment onto ten-foot-wide canvases of Tyvek wrapped around the gallery. Huge, charged swaths of commie red, sunny yellow, and cartoon blue just outdazzle Lambert's delicate protest work. Leave the exhibit, and the trucks are all you notice around town. -- D2 (Through August 14 at 416 25th St., Oakland; 510-444-7263.)

Tsunami Relief: The Ongoing Effort -- The City of Berkeley draws a drop of genuine horror from dead headlines with its presentation of ten crayon drawings made by Sri Lankan coastal village children who were the primary victims of the tsunami on December 26. The Buddhist youngsters, undergoing group therapy with the help of relief organization SecondAid, rely heavily on the colors blue and brown to depict the extermination of a quarter-million people on ten-by-twelve-inch paper. Bodies and debris, walls of water, and submerged cities get the grade-school Crayola treatment, while up above, relief efforts are illustrated in two dozen prints highlighting shelter camps, food giveaways, and medical help. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration even chips in with a time-lapse diagram of the 9.1 Richter scale earthquake ringing the Indian Ocean like a gong. Sales from prints of the children's drawings go to ongoing Second Aid relief efforts. -- D2 (Through September 18 at Addison Street Windows Gallery, 2018 Addison St., Berkeley; 510-981-7546.)


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