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."

Dream Houses -- Randy Dixon re-creates the dilapidated barns of his Midwestern college days inside the sculpture court at 1111 Broadway with Dream Houses, four wooden installations violating every sane carpenter's rules of engagement. The bizarre structures are supposed to come straight out of twisted memories where gravity doesn't apply and nontraditional angles reign. Consequently, many of his three- to-ten-foot-tall art shanties are lopsided and malformed to the point of needing to be nailed down to prevent tipping. "Prairie Schooner" captures the essence of a farmhouse after a bad teleportation job, with the door fitted into the middle of a kinked-in front wall. "Two Doors on Night's Edge" is a huge edifice smelling of freshly cut two-by-fours with a dominant malformed door set at an even more bizarre angle. While Dixon's comment is on memory, the former architect accidentally constructed rather uncanny models of new postmodern buildings that use modern materials to mimic the unique look of tilted, crumbling Third World forms. Call it the Derelict Aesthetic, with Dixon as the new Mugatu. (Through November 16 at the Oakland Museum of California Sculpture Court; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)

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)

Up/Down/Around -- Marin installation artist Bean Finneran ends her injection of color and chaos into the all-business lobby at 555 12th St. in downtown Oakland this week, so you might want to catch this glimpse of absurdity before it's gone. Most of the lawyers, realtors, and entertainment executives moving through the well-lit, marble-floored lobby on their lunch break pay no attention to the seven large, mutant Koosh ball assemblages she has built. And it's precisely this clash of contexts that brings the installation to life. Finneran hand-rolls, paints, and fires hundreds of thousands of pencil-sized ceramic filaments, then arranges them into improbable piles up to three feet tall with no visible support structure. The pieces range from the three-by-three-foot "Yellow Dome" with 4,800 curves, to "Opal White Ring," an enormous six-foot-diameter nest of thirty thousand hand-rolled pieces of clay. Nothing special at a Burning Man party, Up/Down/Around's yellows, reds, and riotous forms clash hilariously with the serious-looking types trudging through the space with their lattes. Finnerman expertly shows how an installation can suck everyone into the art. (Through November 11 at Gallery 555; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)

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