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Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Big Bawlers — This ensemble show dedicated to crying, pain, and all manner of happy thoughts is hit and miss, yet contains the most blatantly obscene and hence most awesome piece of low-rent gallery art we've seen this year. Ashley Neese's "After Our Conversation in Oakland" is simply looped footage of her crying. However, Kyle Ranson's heavy-handed house paint, spray paint, and paint-pen "Tobacco" conjures plantations and slavery through a huge, colorful, yet ghastly portrait of an indigenous male composed of geometric shapes set against a black background. San Francisco's On Six Gallery affiliate Chris Fitzpatrick upstages everyone, though, with a piece so bawdy even liberal hipsters can't stare at it. "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is 144 square inches of pencil-on-paper filth depicting a hardcore pornography shot that's all buttocks and labia descending on shaft and scrotum. Neither redemption, nor a motive, appear after repeated views. (Through July 31 at Auto3321, 3321 Telegraph Ave., Oakland;

Josh Keyes and Kyle Mock — Sixteen acrylic-on-canvas pieces ranging from one to two square feet testify to the ever-splendid development of local artist Keyes. A draftsman by training, he confronts the rigidity of urban planning and its clash with nature via two-dimensional form studies that float above backgrounds of white space. The Tumble series consists of blocky green Lego pieces centered in white space furry with street signs: "Yield. Stop. Left. Right. H for hospital." Keyes' Interlock series goes a step further, depicting photoreal houses, landfills, forests, and oceans locked onto different sides of a three-dimensional cube floating in white space. Keyes' clean lines and photorealism contrast nicely with Mock's underwhelming portraits of hippies and hipsters. (Through July 30 at 4224 Telegraph Ave., Oakland;

The Social Realists — Social realism takes over the lobby of the Esteban Sabar gallery, so prepare for heavy-handed depictions of Indian massacres and starving Somalians. There's one painting in the whole exhibit that rises above morose retreads of old grievances, though, and that's Guy Colwell's 18-by-12-inch "Disaster." Two dozen modern Americans run screaming to the left, away from an unseen calamity off-screen right. Yet there's one young black dude near the action who isn't running. He's not even screaming. He stands still, nonplussed and suspiciously glancing toward Armageddon as if to say, "It figures." The only thing that comes close to the levity and relevance of "Disaster" is Colwell's 25-square-foot oil-on-canvas mural "Litter Beach." An orgy of bright colors and human forms swarm over each other in a cartoonish depiction of Americans having some hot fun in the sun atop a beach comprised entirely of litter. (Through July 31 at 480 23rd St., Oakland; or 510-444-7411.)


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