In the Galleries 

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Reviews by Jakki K. Spicer

Chino Latino Meets the Angel Baby — This photography exhibit by gallery owner Bob Jew is billed as "The next chapter of the Kai Doy Jook Sing en Mexico series." Even the title leaves viewers feeling a little out of the loop. The first chapter was on display last winter at the Craft and Cultural Arts Gallery in Oakland, and provided a bit more context. This collection of photos, largely reflecting a photojournalist's sentiment, leaves the viewers feeling as if they stumbled into a miniseries half-way through, unsure of the plot line and the characters. After some research, we learn that these photos are from Oaxaca; they typically depict social unrest (a teacher's strike had become a general one, and many of the shots are filled with policemen in full riot gear), or a stark juxtaposition of rich and poor, native and tourist. The most visually arresting image is "Mariachi Wallpaper," a close-up of the torsos of a fully outfitted mariachi band, forming a riot of intricate patterns. (Through May 31 at 35 Grand Ave., Oakland; FrontGalleryOakland.com or 510-444-1900.)

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. The materials lists of Jenny Honnert Abell's pieces read like little narrative accompaniments to her quirky collages. Pieces include "Dad's architectural drawings, dryer lint quilted underneath hosiery with stitched designs, elk hair, stitching on paper, antique handwritten personal manifesto, 'eyeball' candy wrappers, and Kip's 'Mad Cat' drawing." (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, as a library should, 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. A 1960s version of a plan for improvement gives us two Oaklands, one of "Observed Major Problems" (Deteriorating Housing, Unsightly New Apartments, Severe Lack of Open Space) and one of "Observed Major Opportunities" (High-Priority New Public Schools, Opportunity for New Marina); both remain. The drawings and photographs of buildings and parks planned (some eventually built, many not) are certainly worth a gander, not least for a glimpse into the imagined futures of yesteryear. (Through September 15 at 125 14th St., Oakland; OaklandLibrary.org or 510-328-3222.)

Measure of Time — Although all the press is focused on the Berkeley Art Museum's Nauman show, there's another exhibit there worth seeing. "Measure of Time" 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." Joseph Stella's "Bridge" joins the avant-garde film Manhatta and Max Weber's "Night" in an homage to the speed and density of the emerging urban landscape of the early 20th century. (Through June 24 at 2626 Bancroft Way; BAMPFA.berkeley.edu or 510-624-0808.)

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 art opening for these works, populated by your usual scruffy hipster artists mulling beside besuited millionaires, included a tour of model units. The murals, I suppose, 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. (Permanent installation at 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: SwarmStudios.net or 510-839-2787.)

Ultra Deepfield — Kala Art Institute's current show highlights artistic uses of photographic processes. Mayumi Hamanaka and Michael Damm reuse archival prints, transforming them into meditations on space and color and ethereal commentaries on urban blight respectively. Hamanaka's skill lies in the pairing of a vast uniform ground with tiny objects (distant planes, flowers, or buildings against a wide sweep of sky); by focusing on the ground rather than the objects, she vertiginously creates a space of quiet meditation. Damm's small prints layer color over nocturnal scenes of ruined city streets, but imbue them with a light that gives the decrepit tableaux an almost mystic quality. His video piece, foothills and fruitvales, focuses the camera on gutter puddles, showing us the shimmering, quaking reflections of buildings, trees, and people. Apollonia Morrill's chromogenic prints of San Francisco's Transbay Transit Terminal turn a dingy daily space into a galaxyscape of dark glimmering floors and glowing orbs of reflective light. (Through May 12 at 1060 Heinz Ave., Berkeley; Kala.org or 510 549 2977.)

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  • In the Galleries

    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
    • Sep 5, 2007
  • In the Galleries

    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
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