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Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Building the New East Span — What a weak title for such a huge, overwhelming exhibit. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's second floor in downtown Oakland hosts more than three dozen large B&W candids from the making of the bay's new bridge. This $5.5 billion demigod of a suspension bridge calls upon the forces of 310-ton piledrivers and bearded men so rugged their appearance roughs up the eye. Photographer Joseph A. Blum makes sure to highlight the men and women on the other side of the guardrail, including some of the famed welders responsible for the core of the 530-foot, self-anchoring bridge segment. The Bay Bridge project is repositioned by Blum in the epic, nature-conquering frame it deserves. (Through May 31 at 101 8th St., Oakland; 510-817-5773.)

Everything I Know ... I Learned in the Movies — Blurry, pixelated portraits of Princess Diana, Bette Midler, Monica Lewinsky, and other tragic chicks line the halls of Emeryville's Muse Media Center in this pretentious, navel-gazing photography exhibit by artist and filmmaker Ann P. Meredith, who took pictures of her television while living in a dingy room in Manhattan between 1994 and 2002. Photography is already too easy, but taking clever pictures of one's TV crosses some futile line. Why bother? (Through May 31 at Muse Media Center, 4221 Hollis St., Emeryville; or 510-655-1111.)

Transpose: The Image & Everyday Life — Obi-Wan Kenobi said not to trust your eyes; they can deceive you. Painter Steven Robert Barich turns that maxim into an art lesson with "Transpose," featuring several large-scale photoreal B&W paintings broken by conflicting perspectives. Barich digitally combines pics in Photoshop, prints a transparency of the collage, projects it onto a large piece of paper, then paints over it to generate the trippy yet realistic effects. Also on the collage tip, former news photographer Dan Nelson presents ten "photems" — disparate images of everyday life stacked on top of each other like a totem pole. Boring and overlooked objects like rusting cars and taxidermied marmosets somehow add up to mysterious narratives about the futility of life, largely because Nelson's tight cropping kills any context. (Through May 21 at 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakland; or 510-444-7263.)


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