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."

Between Dimensions -- Very rarely do you see someone do something new and rewarding with Minimalism. Berkeley artist Ruth von Jahnke Waters shows visitors what's left of the genre's possibilities with pure color studies using very novel materials. Waters creates large sculptural paintings using iridescent and interference pigments on polycarbonate plastic aluminum and steel. She basically paints these big squares with synthetics and then pins them bowing outward onto panels. The radial effect bounces varying amounts of light off the painting's plane, changing the colors dramatically as you move closer to and around it. -- D2 (Through May 31 at Gallery 940, 940 Dwight Way, Berkeley; 650-594-1577.)

The Chess Set -- Four thousand dollars for a crying ceramic unicorn head on top of a huge chess piece? Come on. Sculptor Jane Grimm fuels disdain for public art with sixteen human-size ceramic chess pieces that try to take advantage of the boring, gray-tiled lobby of the Oakland Museum of California at City Center Sculpture Court. This installation might be worth a look if the tiles fit an actual chess layout for a good speed match, or if the king didn't look like some hackneyed Greek bust with a blindfold. -- D2 (Through August 10 at 1111 Broadway, Oakland; 510-238-2200.)

Labyrinth -- The goal of this show's eight collaborating artists is to shatter the comfort zones of a normal art opening by plunging viewers into abject darkness, jarring them with thundering atonal noise, and making them grope their way around on their hands and knees to the paintings and installations. The space begins with a two-story wooden edifice composed of wooden pallets, furniture, and other regional scrap screwed and nailed together. Amy Frieberthauser's maze section uses huge sheets of beige, skinlike nylon fabric that has been safety-pinned and tied into crawlspaces that digests viewers like food in an enormous alien intestine. Eric Groff continues the tunnel motif with a claustrophobic nest of dense, dark, low passageways containing lighted installations. Groff's work spits people out into a final, barren topiary garden, the work of J. Neson and Rob Streff. -- D2 (Through May 24 at LoBot Gallery, 1800 Campbell St., Oakland; LoBotGallery.com)

Sculpture by Bruce Beasley: A 45-Year Retrospective -- It takes guts to be Bruce Beasley. Three years ago, the Oakland-based sculptor created Vitality, the monumental abstract sculpture that sits atop the fountain at Frank Ogawa Plaza downtown. While it may not be the artistic pinnacle of his career, to most Oaklanders, Vitality is an introduction to his artistry and temerity. Now a retrospective at the Oakland Museum offers the curious a chance to gain greater insight into the career of this gifted man who adopted West Oakland as his home more than four decades ago. With the dedication of a scientist, Beasley has concentrated on one medium at a time -- whether wood, acrylic, bronze, or scrap metal -- researching and exhausting its possibilities before moving on. Beasley's best work manages to express dense, rough, or ungraceful materials in balletic or dramatic poses. The cast-bronze Caper III (2001), for example, is big enough to walk under. As with all of the bronze pieces in the show, its delicate golden and turquoise patina softens its otherwise hard edges, and its lightly textured surface begs to be touched. Beasley's sculpture shows well in the modern architecture of the museum, especially in its gardens, where the bigger sculptures are visually arresting. And yet, with 66 pieces on display, most in the same gallery space, individual pieces sometimes feel repetitive. Less might have been better for showing off Beasley's work. Significantly, Tragamon (1972), a seven-foot-high cast-acrylic work he made for the museum, is striking on its own, where it is permanently located in the museum's pond. -- B.K. (Through July 31 at the Oakland Museum; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)



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    Our critics weigh in on local art.
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