449-B 23rd St., Oakland, 510-444-7263
It’s not evident from the building’s hardscrabble exterior on a gritty block of machine shops north of downtown Oakland, but in four short years the art gallery and performance space known as 21 Grand has become one of the main nerve centers of the new, bohemian city — the one that sprang up during the dot-com boom, when hipsters and flipsters fled SF in droves. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell exactly where the gallery shows leave off and the ancillary artiness begins. You might stop by for, say, the reception for a painting and sculpture show featuring four-foot-high abstract canvases and little green army men, and end up staying for a performance piece, a little hip-hop, or some ambient sound installations. Where else could an exhibition of photographs from Serbia segue into a celebration of the Paris Commune, with avant-garde music and anarchist speakers? Musically, the gallery excels. Among April’s many offerings was a collaborative performance by ROVA Saxophone Quartet’s Larry Ochs, extraordinary percussionist William Winant, pianist and computer electronics wonder Chris Brown, and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura; May brings two days of the San Francisco Alternative Music Festival. 21 Grand is basically a big, constantly changing gallery show, with new surprises every month. And admission is often on a sliding scale, with a high of $10.
550 2nd Street, Oakland, 510-763-4361