On the Wall 

Ear Waves — Next to the Mama Buzz Cafe is a storefront-cum-gallery called Keys That Fit. It claims to be a space to view art "without the social borders that arise from having to enter a space." Currently, Matt Volla's "Ear Waves" graces these windows. Not an unattractive piece, it is, perhaps of necessity, limited. "Ear Waves" consists of a series of ink-drawn waves, the largest of which undulate thanks to a series of electric fans. While Volla has an interest in sound, and while the space is equipped to produce it (the last installation, Joshua Churchill's "By Way of Necessity," relied heavily on sound), the waves are sometimes eerily silent — apparently there is a sound accompaniment; it's just not always on. When all the other galleries are closed, and when you're strolling down Telegraph (say, some balmy Monday afternoon), it's worth stopping by. (Through March 31 at 2318 Telegraph Ave, Oakland; Xaul.com/KEYS/home.html)

Green — The Frank Bette Center in Alameda prides itself on its support of community artists. Every group exhibit is selected through an open call based on a particular thematic, and artists come with their paintings, photos, pottery, jewelry, and crafts. Some pieces end up fitting the criteria more imaginatively than others — Terry Telles' photo of a Greyhound bus station sign titled "Destination Greener Pastures" is a particularly creative solution to adhering to the current "Green" theme — and every space in the gallery is filled. As you might expect, some of the artworks are more interesting than others, but many of them are extremely technically adept. Patricia Edith's painterly photos are accompanied by mini-tales of the objects they depict, such as "Susan Found This Partially Burned Gideon Bible on the Street," and are well worth seeing. The center, in addition to selling the works, offers a rental program through which individuals and businesses can rent art for a number of months for a fraction of the sale price. (Through March 31 at 1601 Paru St., Alameda; FrankBetteCenter.org or 510-523-6957.)

Half Asian — Front Gallery is hosting a show that might not have been out of place in a racial profiling pseudoscientific exhibit — which is in large part its power. The photographs by Ben Sloat and Steve Aishman are mid- to wall-size C-prints, oversize close-ups of the faces of people who are half-Asian. There is, of course, a wide range of what half-Asian looks like, but by naming the exhibit thus, the artists prompt the viewer to search for phenotypic groupings, only to be startled out of such an examination and into self-conscious discomfort. This is especially true of "Digital Bodisafa," a series of photos with crude outlines tracing the noses, lips, brows, skulls, shoulders, and eyes of their subjects. These markings mirror the work of 19th-century institutional taxonomies in which authorities "scientifically" used photography to determine the criminal or degenerate potential of individuals. Sloat and Aishman's mimicry of such dated procedures demonstrate how they linger into the present. (Through March 27 at 35 Grand Ave., Oakland; FrontGalleryOakland.com or 510-444-1900.)

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.)

Visual Alchemy — In this show, Hank Willis Thomas' photography comments on the impact of popular culture on African Americans. Most forceful is "Absolut Power," a lightbox-mounted image demonstrating the maximum number of black bodies you could pack into a slave ship the shape of an Absolut vodka bottle. Linda Fleming's wool-felt wall sculptures have the grace of the sinuous images of mosque art. "Haze," with its pink felt backing, emits an almost neon glow, and "Lake Lahontan" presents lake topography in cushiony gray layers. John Chiara's Cibachrome photos are most interesting in their compromised visibility — the images are muddy, but the surfaces are so glossy as to reflect mostly the atmospheric light. Most compelling are Tracey Snelling's paired models and photos. Her "MiniMart" mini-model is impressively authenticated in its detail, from the cardboard ad of a Budweiser girl to the Trojans for sale at the tiny register. The photograph of the same model on a twilit street is an uncanny juxtaposition of life and artistic representations of life. (Through March 24 at the Oakland Art Gallery, 199 Kahn's Alley, Oakland; OaklandArtGallery.org or 510-637-0395.)


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    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
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