Berserkers

A group show at Red Door Gallery gets violence.

Most of us practice safe violence vicariously through movies and
video games, but the enraged teabaggers who packed heat to town hall
meetings this week show that our addiction transcends low-rent
entertainment. Texas, we’ve got a problem. The title of this show,
Insights of Life from the Shadows of Death, comes from
James P. Anderson, a convicted San Quentin Death Row inmate believed by
some to be unjustly convincted (and showing his symbolic surrealist
paintings here), so perhaps we can be serious for a few minutes and
confess that all of us consider violence a form of existential
self-assertion and sometimes enjoy running joyously amuck, like Hyde
released from stodgy Jekyll.

Curated by Lisa Rasmussen and Lauren Odell Usher,
Insights features work in all media. The photographers include
Steve Davis, who portrays incarcerated teens in Washington state; Lisa
Rasmussen, who depicts aspects of a ritual healing; and Helene
Fischman, who captures the squalid home of one Shimshon Klieger, of
Auschwitz, Poland, a war survivor who lived, emotionally shattered, in
the family home behind the synagogue until his death in 2000. Mixed
media and installation are represented by Jais Booth, who likens her
childhood experience of violence with the 2005 bombing of Iraq in
“Flesh Burning”; Dorothy Nissen, who treats the war mythologically in
“Duende + Cyclops at the Riverbank Near the Garden of Eden”; Mary
Marnell, who pairs a photo of a Sudanese boy with an Iraqi’s mournful
judgment, “This war makes hearts like stone”; and Lisa Nowlain, who in
her “Secret War Series” attempts to come to terms with the 1965-75
bombing of Laos: 260 million bombs dropped, nearly a third of which
remain undetonated today — essentially land mines. The painters
include Marc Watson, whose parricide-themed painting, “My Father’s
Sins,” is both cartoonish and disturbing, as is Jose-Luis Segura’s “War
Child,” depicting an African boy-soldier surrounded by bombed, strafed
stick figures secreting bulbous ghosts. Karen Gutfreund merges mosque
and church, Muslim and Christian, in “We Believe,” with its typed
chant, “There is no god but god.” The show’s two sculptors here make
pithy points: David Warder Cumming’s “American Exceptionalism” depicts
three G.I. Joe dolls reconfigured into the familiar trio of blinkered
monkeys; and Ehren Tool, a Gulf War vet, shows shelves full of scathing
antiwar cups festooned with violence porn: weaponry, crosses, flags,
slogans, dictators, generals, babes, and human remains. Red Door’s
community outreach gallery features artwork by members of BAYWAR (Bay
Area Women Against Rape) and the Gorgeous Mosaic Foundation. Through
August 30 at Red Door Gallery & Collective (416-26th St.,
Oakland). RedDoorGalleryandCollective.com
or 510-292-7061

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