In the Galleries 

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

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 halfway 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. (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. (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. 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.)

East Bay Open Studios Preview Show — ProArts' current offering is a combination of an immense group show and wall-hung calling cards for local artists. It is officially a preview of East Bay Open Studios (held the first two weekends in June), and features — it seems — nearly all of the four hundred participating artists. Consequently, there are some readily recognizable pieces like Dave Meeker's ever-present inflation-deflation sculptures, as well as works by some lesser-known jewelry makers, potters, and photographers. Indeed, the artwork is largely of the marketable sort that might look nice over your sofa or in the guest bathroom. This is also a good place to view works by excellent artists who don't show frequently in galleries, such as Rebecca Haines, Farnaz Shadravan, and Wendy Yoshimura. (Through June 10 at 500 Second St., Oakland; ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361.)

Fleeting Moments — Giorgi Gallery in Berkeley is exceptionally pleasant, with a lush little sculpture garden tucked away outside. The current (indoor) show features five artists who don't seem linked by the tenuous thematic, style, or content. Still, the show is worth a viewing. Most of John Kenyon's pieces are technically adept scenes of waterfront areas, most prominently East Bay marinas. However, some of his more surrealist pieces, such as "Point Richmond Fantasy" — featuring a San Francisco in flames, a sinking cruise ship, and a mournful-looking dinosaur — are particularly delightful. Elizabeth Dante's sculptures often contain a sort of ironic humor, such as "Woman's Liberation," a fountain featuring a woman balancing five baskets on her head while grasping a child by the arm; or "Is-a-bell," a woman who is, indeed, a bell, complete with clapper. Jon Kwak's three sculptural works use found objects: His "Who We Are Now" is a play on the three crosses of Calvary, with cellphones crucified for our sins. Paul Graf's hydrocal cast pieces play with the line between two and three dimensions, and Barbara Ward's oil landscapes are serene but unsurprising. (Through June 3 at 2911 Claremont Ave., Berkeley; GiorgiGallery.com or 510-848-1228.)

Markings in Time — Pablo Andres Cristi's works on display at the Guerilla Cafe reimagine urban decay as both art and canvas. His pieces evoke expressions of what we've left behind and moved on from — forgotten moments wedged between where we were and where we are. His portraits feature people doing something that's not quite nothing, but something they're unlikely to remember — cellphone conversations on streets and benches, pushing an ice cream cart from one location to the next, idling on a corner, or staring into space. He reminds us that the "urban decay" that is so often decried is not just the detritus of progress, needing to be expunged or gentrified, but is part and parcel of the now. (Through June 3 at 1620 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; GuerillaCafe.com or 510-845-CAFE.)

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.)

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. Perhaps it is not surprising that these paintings are selling well, and that Java Rama has extended Flores' show — they offer access to the same world they promise you'll never belong to, and are suitable for display in your very own living room. (Through August 31 at 1333 Park St., Alameda; 510-523-2116.)

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. (Permanent installation at 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: SwarmStudios.net or 510-839-2787.)

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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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