We Are All Together 

Three shows glory in cultural hybridity.

One of the pluses of the postmodern media-mix culture is its loosening of ideas about identity — racial, religious, socioeconomic — as America becomes less pallid, puritanical, and privatized. And prissy about money and class, one hopes. Nowadays, public spirit, voluntarism, tolerance of gay marriage, alternative energy, and even political reform are in the air — now that the Coolidge/Hoover, er, Reagan/Bush gambling junkets are over and "Morning in America" has fogged over. Three exhibitions at Pro Arts examine the cultural moment's porous boundaries.

CalliGRAFFitti combines Eastern calligraphy and Western graffiti, the former from Minette Mangahas, and the latter from her collaborators, Amend One, Apex, Coby Kennedy, Denz, Desi, Lucha, Meow, Toons, and Zen One. Painted on wood panels, scrolls, the wall, umbrellas, sneakers, cinder blocks, and even a toaster, these punchy, exuberant works synthesize "high" and "low" to defy categorization — as do their playful titles: "Exquisite Corpse/We're All in This Together," referring to the Surrealist game of blind collaborations; "Dao Now"; and the bilingual "Ei (Eternity)," "Osameru (Heal)," and "Yume (Dream)."

Ala Ebtekar, ubiquitous these days, is showing a dozen of his somber, eloquent paintings. Skillfully imitating Persian miniatures, Ebtekar presents current events (victims of war) in elegantly archaic form (calligraphy reminiscent of sacred writings). While these works implicitly indict the warmongers, they are as much about the filters — aesthetic, historical, religious, and ideological — through which we consider reality as they are about the brutal facts. They remind us that the censoring of history has been the rule, not the exception, throughout most of history: Americans other than overgrown Fox Kids know the news is doctored, but before modern communications, whole armies fell in the woods, unheard.

Finally, on a lighter note, Ken Lo plays havoc in drawing, painting, and video with cultural stereotypes and sports-celebrity madness; he plays them off against each other to splendid comic effect (usually). In the video "Rice Ball Chronicles," we watch five-foot-seven K. Lo in hoops battle with Kobe Bryant — or, rather, we watch articulated cut-paper figures, manipulated by hand, as an off-screen male voice (hmm!) gushes, "I can't imagine anyone in their right mind who wouldn't want to be Ken Lo!" His "Love Letter" videos feature sentiments both similarly fulsome ("You model excellence and integrity") and wryly dissenting ("Being around Ken makes me feel really smart"). Summer Solos runs through August 15 at Pro Arts (560 Second St., Oakland). ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361.


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