In the Galleries 

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. 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.)

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.)

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. The idea was to get the prisoners to watch themselves; philosopher Michel Foucault used this as a metaphor for life in late modernity. 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 — violets, oranges, sickly greens. 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. (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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