In the Galleries 

Our critic reviews local visual arts exhibitions.

Page 2 of 2

Flags and Anthems — Jeff Ray and Katrina Lam have collaborated in Keys That Fit's latest display. Confined to the store windows that this gallery consists of, they've proposed a rather complex project. Based on observations the two made of New York's Roosevelt Island and our own Treasure Island, they are attempting to explore the idea of patriotism on one of its smallest scales — the sense of belonging and loyalty one has for an island in the midst of a city. While this concept is rife with possibilities, Ray and Lam have not much capitalized on them, and the early version of the show consists of a haphazard and rudimentary island constructed of plywood, a few proposed flags, and a handwritten project proposal taped to the window. The artists promise to expand their piece, adding elements throughout its tenure, including "site notes, correspondence, scores for anthems, etc." and culminating in a musical performance of anthems of the artists' own composing on July 21. (Through July 27 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland;

Nancy Flores — No, you haven't walked into an exhibit of Jack Vettriano's lesser known works. Java Rama Coffee Shop is showing Nancy Flores' paintings, which demonstrate her fascination with glamour and a dancer's appreciation for the svelte and muscular female form. The subjects of the paintings fill the frames but never look directly at the viewer, thus drawing your attention to a well-formed back, the trim outlines of a tiny belly, or the streamlined shape of a deceptively powerful calf. Plenty of evening gowns and diamonds grace the bodies of these women, signaling their privilege, and their hidden faces provide the same distance from the riff-raff gawkers that the guard at the entrance of a gated community would. (Through August 31 at 1333 Park St., Alameda; 510-523-2116.)

Lush Life: The ACCI Garden Show — ACCI Gallery's current show is an homage to nature. Its fifteen artists all take some piece of the great outdoors — flowers, leaves, birds, bees — as their subject matter. Some of these are rather banal renderings of fields and streams, but some are gorgeous and surprising transformations of Mother Nature's artifacts into art. Marlie de Swart's pottery platters, coasters, and hanging candle holders are perfect (and sturdy) leaves, veined and textured as if just plucked from a giant clay plant of some prehistoric locale. Mark Rhoades' photography turns the macro lens on stamens and stems, and gives nature a constructed quality that turns flowers into lollipops or the secret undersides of a ruffled petticoat. Jean Hearst's paintings of birds combine solidity, stiffness, and a slightly naive perspective to create quasimythical images that would fit perfectly within the pages of a yet-to-be-published book of fairy tales. (Through July 8 at 1652 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley; or 510-843-2527.)

Panopticon — Sham Saenz references Jeremy Bentham's design for a prison organized around the tyranny of the visible in this show. In a Panopticon, the guards, shrouded in a central tower, were able to see all the prisoners, whose cells were arranged concentrically around the tower; because of the guards' invisibility, no single prisoner could know if he was being watched at any given time. Saenz' works — particularly "Panopticon" and "Polypenance" — vividly convey this sense of paranoid anxiety. He places his figures in semiliteral prison spaces, but ones schematized like blueprints and colored in vibrant and garish hues. In "Pennsylvania" (the state that hosts one of the few built prisons modeled closely on the Panopticon), he also reinterprets Bentham's original plan in these same colors, bringing a sense of shocking visibility to what usually masks itself in drab institutional shades. (Through June 29 at Mama Buzz Gallery, 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; or 510-465-4073.)

Spirit of the Peoples of Southwest China — The current display at Addison Street Windows Gallery — photographs by Martin Newman and textiles and objects courtesy of Nancy McKay Trading Company — looks like a cheerful museum display. Newman's photographs of the minority Yi population of southwest China are vibrantly colored images of happy, well-lit indigenous people, with an occasional glimpse of mud huts, thatched roofs, and dusty roads. Although Newman claims that his work is an attempt to "make a visual record before [the Yi] are absorbed into the globally homogenizing culture," the danger here is of "rescuing" them by turning their uniqueness into a commodity available for purchase. Indeed, when McKay describes her motivation for collecting objects for import — they are "inspired by deep cultural roots in folk art, textiles, and everyday furnishings bearing the patina of age" — she may just as well be talking about the weather-worn and grinning faces of Newman's photos. (Through July 8 at 2018 Addison St, Berkeley; 510 981 7546.)

200 Second Street — It is hard not to be snide about a so-called mural project that is entirely contained within a complex of condos selling for $650 a square foot. Indeed, this "dedication to neighborhood beautification" seems to be entirely for the benefit of those possessing the entry code to this mini-gated community. The murals, serve as much a selling point as the stainless-steel kitchen appliances and the 114-square-foot decks. That being said, the two murals — if you ever get to see them — are quite nice. Each spans the two floors of wall space opposite the elevators; Andrew J. Schoultz' "Regeneration" is a orchard of trees exploding fluorescent leaves from their branches and severed limbs, while Casey Jex Smith's "Polarized" is a captivating semipointillist work of black-and-white topography, a brightly colored box-kite-like object floating overhead. (At 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: or 510-839-2787.)


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  • In the Galleries

    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
    • Sep 5, 2007
  • In the Galleries

    Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.
    • Aug 29, 2007
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