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Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Every Life Is a Prophecy — The African continent is among the most recognizable shapes in the world, and Kenya-born Oakland artist Githinji Wa Mbire continues to play with it to great effect. The 43-year-old sculptor and painter amplifies the African theme inside North Berkeley's new Guerilla Cafe with seven large mixed-media and found-object sculptures of the continent. These mounted objects built up largely out of scrap wood vibrate with painted layers of Oakland detritus. Githinji creates coded narratives through the use of common objects like bottle caps, shells, rope, woven straw, and even album covers. Cafe cuisine in Berkeley can be as thrilling as any gallery. (Through October 8 at 1620 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; or 510-845-CAFE.)

Winter Light — There's beauty in entropy, and veteran West Oakland photographer Katherine Westerhout has a breathtaking ability to find it. Ten large-format digital prints of photographs she took inside abandoned and decaying buildings haunt the Swarm Gallery. Measuring six square feet and filled with an entire spectrum of light values — from pure white to pitch black, red to violet — Westerhout's work is in complete focus and as composed as the best paintings. She has been known to break into sealed edifices to get her shots, which transport viewers to ethereal interiors of old canneries, churches, and schoolrooms. Never has the absence of people been so present, nor the stillness of a photograph been so moving. (Through October 8 at 560 2nd St., Oakland; or 510-839-2787.)


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