What's Happening in East Bay Art 

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."

Elemental: Nature and Culture Collide -- This week's closing of a monthly group show by four members of the ACCI Gallery marks the end of nonjuried exhibitions in the Berkeley co-op, ideally opening it up to a more interesting and diverse group of artists who can rattle the boutique craft store's sensibility. The bright, well-lit shop on the end of Shattuck two blocks from downtown sells handmade jewelry in the window interspersed with candle and scarf displays. Everything is one of a kind and expensive, unique yet accessible, familiar with a tweak. Consequently, the gallery in the back has the same nonthreatening tastes, as evinced by the very nice, lucid-colored watercolor paintings of fruit, pictures of stacks of rocks, and abstract paintings of white on white. Jean Hearst, Zach Pine, and Susan Putnam's respective contributions lack even the mild confusion generated by Sarah Miller's "white hieroglyphs on black paper" series. Contact the ACCI about contributions to its first juried show, held mid-November. Though November 4 at 1652 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; ACCIGallery.com or 510-843-2527.)

Local Voice -- The first-ever juried exhibition at Walnut Creek's opulent, well-lit Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts drops the international pretension for some homegrown action. More than four hundred Contra Costa County artists answered this fall's "Local Voice" call for entries, blowing away planners' expectations and challenging sole juror Marian Parmenter of SFMOMA, who took less than a day to cut all but 216 pieces. Two hours aren't enough to see everything that's going on in each work, but the best pieces have a way of standing out, usually as cunning slices of life in hyperreal paintings and photography. George Trabert takes a gentleman's shot at vapid consumer whoredom with "Broadway II" -- showing women's faces blending into corporate logos in a Walnut Creek storefront. Joy Broom's wax-on-laserprint Six Virgin Birds layers bird anatomy and the Madonna, and Doris Porch's $800 miniature Redlands Landscape #3 -- with its Pantone-perfect blue and white desert sky -- is worth every penny. (Through November 13 at the Bedford Gallery, 1301 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek; DLRCA.org or 925-295-1417.)

Red-Color News Soldier -- Preglobalization ignorance must've been bliss. The '60s counterculture could comfortably enshrine Mao as a "power to the people"-type thinker while, meanwhile, on mainland China, terror reigned like reverse McCarthyism on crystal meth (you were busted if you were deemed un-Communist, and the purge lasted ten long years). Aspiring cinematographer-turned-news-flack Li Zhensheng captured thousands of these public shamings, kidnappings, and firing squads in black and white, 22 digital prints of which haunt the drab wood shingle walls of Berkeley's Northgate Hall until December. Zhensheng's newly released photos focus tight on the faces of icon worship and the actions of choreographed spectacle as any good candid should. But what's really amazing is how little the visual language of quality photojournalism has changed. So understandable, immediate, and outrageous are these images, that if they appeared in contemporary news racks it would warrant foreign intervention á la Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan. You can't just kill thousands of people while the world watches anymore, can you? At least you can't count on the domestic press to self-censor, right? Hmmm. (Through December 17 at Northgate Hall, UC Berkeley)


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