In the Galleries 

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

The Art of Food — K Gallery, in Alameda's newly opened Rhythmix Cultural Center, is hosting a food-themed exhibit. Works by six artists are on display, some tending more toward grotesque fascination than reverence, some purely irreverent. Janet Delaney's photographs bring into focus the abjection of food: discarded bits of chopped meat, a spoon digging into disturbingly fleshy fruit. Gail Skoff's black-and-white photos of produce call to mind those inelegant human zones we tend to keep covered up. And yet the lushness of the objects is also fully apparent, and Delaney and Skoff's eye for light and texture draws you into these gorgeous grotesqueries. Guy Diehl and Wendy Yoshimura show, on the other hand, a reverence for fruit's ripe beauty — Diehl's in homage to Renaissance still life, Yoshimura's through shimmeringly rendered watercolor prints of fruit in glass bowls. (Through July 29 at Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda; or 510-845-5060.)

Bridal Fantasies: The Fashion of Dreams — Lacis Museum is not precisely a museum — it is a shrine to all things lace: a shop, a library, an exhibit hall, a history lesson. Playing on a small screen is a video, How to Make a Victorian Corset; lace doilies and veils shroud the walls; tatters tat away in a library nook; and tucked away in a back room full of delicate wedding laces is the current exhibit. A dozen wedding dresses and accoutrements outline a bridal history from the 1850s to the 1930s. We learn that Queen Victoria was the first to wear what we now think of as a traditional white wedding gown (in 1840); gaze upon folds of luxurious cloths and the sparkle of thousands of tiny beads; and glimpse wedding-night garters, bras, and intricate silken robes. These garments are as much testimonies to painstaking work and delicacy of craft as they are to the questionable power of the bridal fantasy and the price one will pay to live out one's own. (Through August 4 at 2982 Adeline St, Berkeley; or 510-843-7290.)

Demolition or "Civic Pride Through Civic Improvement" — This exhibition at the Oakland Main Library commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of urban renewal in Oakland. From Governor Earl Warren's Redevelopment Act of 1945 to 2005 proposals to improve the waterfront, the exhibit demonstrates that dry mix of hope, financial incentive, competing senses of enfranchisement and disenfranchisement, and ultimate discouragement that characterizes so many not-quite-realized grand urban projects. (Through September 15 at 125 14th St., Oakland; or 510-328-3222.)

Everything Kitchen Sink — The Mama Buzz Gallery is hosting a farewell show for Kitchen Sink, the arts and culture mag "for people who think too much." It includes not only works from some of the publication's illustrators, but also a wall of paraphernalia including past issues, news clippings, battered envelopes from artists' mailings, and hand-scribbled editors' notes: a fitting tribute to the paper-generating business that is magazine publishing. Works on display include Salgood Sam's graphic art, depicting allegoric images of war and religion. Also included is an ink drawing of a scrawny hipster kid flipping through vinyl at a record store - an apropos image from a quickly receding past. Chris Lane's works feature images from a less civilized 19th century, including a portrait of John Wilkes Booth, an outhouse, and a series of long-nosed revolvers. Molly Crabapple's "A Page from the Bestiary" gives us a prancing dog in an Elizabethan ruff, lifting its leg as it gazes mournfully at the viewer. (Through July 29 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; or 510-465-4073.)

Flags and Anthems — Jeff Ray and Katrina Lam have collaborated in Keys That Fit's latest display. 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." (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. (Through August 31 at 1333 Park St., Alameda; 510-523-2116.)

Revisions/Recoverings — At the Magnes Museum, Amy Berk has transformed her grandmother's table linens into glinting canvases of a melancholy nostalgia. She has taken tablecloths and stitched together napkins and stretched them over frames as if creating canvases awaiting the brush. Yet the images are already there on the surface — silken glimmers of floral designs, repeating monograms, and lacy patterns, as well as the irregular mottling of ancient food and wine stains. Berk likens these to the marks of the potter's hands, calling the ghostly participants of long-ago suppers to their place as artists of everyday life. Her pieces are juxtaposed with two artifacts from the museum's collection, a festival Kiddush cloth from 1745 and a Torah binder from 1814; she also calls our attention to the stains on these fabrics — not as blemishes, but as marks of living history. She wants to remind us that "art-making [is] inseparable from living ... the line between the sacred and the profane is threadbare." (Through August 5 at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St, Berkeley; or 510-549-6950.)

Summer Breeze in Paint — The two-year-old Artscape is located in a small house with a large backyard. This "gallery and sculpture garden" doubles as a high-end art shop, and thus leans toward interesting but largely unchallenging works. Leslie Safarik's clay cats are scattered about the place, as are Mitch La Plante's oversize glass fruits and vegetables and Archie Held's $8,000 fountains. There are also nice surprises, such as John Oldani's found-object art, and David Mudgett's steel spiders. (Through August 9 at 1161 Alpine Rd., Walnut Creek; or 925 944 1544.)

Thread -- In Johannson Projects' current show, eight artists explore thread. Through this seemingly simple concept emerge complex, rich, and highly divergent works. Devorah Sperber, using math and magic, transforms a panel of thread spools into a refracted homage to Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Kathryn Spence turns a teddy bear inside out and creates an ghostly snowy owl. The dangling threads of Tucker Schwarz' sparse embroideries of residential streets evoke the unfinished quality of memory and suburban experiments. Alex Case's pieces, with their drab industrial-color palettes, use the layering of fabric and rudimentary stitching to produce a soft depth and density that call to mind the most endearing of dystopic cityscapes. Katie Lewis produces a map of her physiological fluxes with deep red pins and thread, creating vaguely figurative thickets stretched across the pinpricks of her maladies. This is a show both cohesive and diverse - a happy update to your grandmother's textile creations. (Through August 25 at 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; or 510-444-9140.)

Three — Berkeley's Guerilla Cafe is showing works by emerging Bay Area artists Samira Idroos, Sylvia La, and Chun Mui Miller. La's largest portrait was one of the standouts at Pro Art's Open Studios preview. It shows a young Asian woman surrounded by hazy icons of Chineseness: a junk, a jumping carp, small lotus flowers, etc. Idroos' abstract paintings are awash in black, with white tally marks scratched into the thick paint. The largest has small streaks of whites, grays, and yellows, and shapely details that vaguely represent the feminine form. Miller's black-and-white photos of China feature scenes that are simultaneously desolate and claustrophobic, while retaining a worn beauty. In one we see a cluttered alleyway with a small barefoot child receding into the distance; another is an image of an elegant, pagoda-roofed gateway opening onto a field empty but for its patches of weeds. (Through July 29 at 1620 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; or 510-845-2233.)


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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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