On The Wall 

Our critics weigh in on local art.

For complete up-to-date East Bay art listings, look under "Billboard" on the home page for the "Select Category" pulldown, then select "Art Galleries" or "Museums."

Blew Back -- Urban Blend Cafe's yellow walls would've tainted the tones in photographer Eric Segres' eleven color stills, but the East Bay resident took the extra step of tinting the frames blue to balance out the hues. What's left is radiant, supersaturated portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, including the garish Mack Diesel, which was retouched to highlight the vehicle's chrome, contrast-boosted for grittiness, and computer-altered for a neon-blue sky. Judging from his pics of ultra-amber orchards and the sizzling electric action figures, Segres worships at the altar of deep color. Amen to that. -- D2 (Through Dec. 13 at 333 Broadway, Oakland; 510-444-4648.)

Celebrating Frank Bette -- Talk about an unusual suspect. Loner artisan Bette lived decades in old Alameda, working ostensibly as an antique-furniture restorer. But inside his solitary Victorian, the German native churned out the work of a knuckles-to-kneebones arts fanatic. In death, he left about 7,000 diverse artworks, from exquisitely tender still-life sketches to abstract woodworking. The discovery and catalogue of Alameda arts' own Keyser Soze continues with a posthumous solo show. -- D2 (Through Dec. 31 at 1601 Paru St., Alameda; FrankBetteCenter.org or 510-523-6957.)

New Works -- An uninventive title for an unassuming space. Look southwest from where Gilman hits the BART tracks, and you see a fenced-off green area. A split boulder of granite spits water at the front entrance as a steel sculpture whirls nearby. A New Leaf has hundreds of abstract fountains, whirling kinetic art, and tortured sculptures, all outdoors and ready for your backyard. The abstract steel shapes alienate, but the rush of dozens of fountains soothe. -- D2 (Through Jan. 15, 2005 at A New Leaf; ANewLeafGallery.com or 510-525-7621.)

Refa1 -- You don't necessarily need a particular reason to visit your neighborhood vibrator shop, but Oakland graffiti artist Refa1's $425 art photo God-S is a good one. One of more than two dozen stills, it hangs way too high above the racks of dildos and masturbation cream on San Pablo. The art placement disappoints given the luscious, decadent caliber of black female nudes in various states of repose and action. God-S reigns from her exalted position -- face hidden in total shadow but for the glint off her aviator sunglasses, long lithe black limbs in controlled relaxation, with midnight-colored areolae complementing the composition. Exquisite. -- D2 (Through Dec. 31 at Good Vibrations, 2504 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; GoodVibes.com or 510-841-8987.)

Threshold: Byron Kim 1990-2004 -- Kim is best known for his pictures of skin color, without the texture or wrinkles of the real thing. His first solo show is a retrospective look at what this Korean-American artist has been doing since he burst on the art scene in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. Kim has continued to paint in monochromatic fields of color, sometimes placing two colors next to each other, sometimes multiple strips. Still, to fully appreciate the images, the viewer has to read the explanatory wall plaques. -- B.K. (Through Dec. 12 at the Berkeley Art Museum; BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu or 510-642-0808.)

Touch Me, Feel Me -- I'm inside a freshly painted catacomb, crawling on my hands and knees past jagged metal screws, wooden splinters, and hyperflammable fake rocks, when it hits me: This is probably why tactile art has never really taken off. The Minimalists, the Realists, the Abstract Expressionists, they've all had their time and place and stars, but the Interactionists? "Not that I know of," says Caleb Rogers, who is half responsible for bringing a big, bold, and possibly dangerous collection of tactile art to West Oakland. He and LoBot cocurator Adam Hatch rounded up more than a dozen Bay Area artists for Touch Me, Feel Me, something approximating sensory overload. Think Chuck E. Cheese's for the MDMA generation. More than 1,700 dirty, abandoned toy animals scavenged from various East Bay sites make up Hatch's seven-foot-tall piece in the exhibit, a meta-teddy bear named Pre-Loved. Here are the beady-eyed teddies, the sad bunnies, and the frumpy monkeys -- formative objectives of love and ownership -- all mashed up and sewn together into a cartoon demigod. The urge to reconnect with the soft fur is immediately checked by the apprehension to touching these tattered, browned, polluted items. But what to make of Eric Groff's Church and St. Peter's Bones? He modified the gallery's six-foot-tall stage and understage to construct a shantytown church with found materials. It also invokes the living conditions of much of the world's destitute population. -- D2 (Through December 3 at the LoBot Gallery; Lo BotGallery.com)

What's Going On? -- The curators of the Oakland Museum's ambitious new show about the Vietnam War era in California tell not one story but many. Along with a more straightforward chronology of the war itself, the show juxtaposes opposing voices. The accompanying audio tour is crucial to the viewer's appreciation, but sadly, to get to often-riveting first-person accounts, patrons have to listen to a tedious summation of events relayed by an anonymous narrator. -- B.K. (Through Feb. 27, 2005; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)


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