Cheap Wine, Free Cheese

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Building the New East Span — What a weak title for such a huge, overwhelming exhibit. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s second floor in downtown Oakland hosts more than three dozen large B&W candids from the making of the bay’s new bridge. This $5.5 billion demigod of a suspension bridge calls upon the forces of 310-ton piledrivers and bearded men so rugged their appearance roughs up the eye. Photographer Joseph A. Blum makes sure to highlight the men and women on the other side of the guardrail, including some of the famed welders responsible for the core of the 530-foot, self-anchoring bridge segment. The Bay Bridge project is repositioned by Blum in the epic, nature-conquering frame it deserves. (Through May 31 at 101 8th St., Oakland; 510-817-5773.)

Everything I Know … I Learned in the Movies — Blurry, pixelated portraits of Princess Diana, Bette Midler, Monica Lewinsky, and other tragic chicks line the halls of Emeryville’s Muse Media Center in this pretentious, navel-gazing photography exhibit by artist and filmmaker Ann P. Meredith, who took pictures of her television while living in a dingy room in Manhattan between 1994 and 2002. Photography is already too easy, but taking clever pictures of one’s TV crosses some futile line. Why bother? (Through May 31 at Muse Media Center, 4221 Hollis St., Emeryville; or 510-655-1111.)

Re:Form — Works by Gregg Fleishman — Remember those prefabricated wooden dinosaur models that came precut in a sheet of aircraft wood that you could make into triceratopses and T. rexes? Remember how you could pop out individual vertebrae and slot them into the ready-made hole on the spine? Architectural genius and obsessive Gregg Fleishman elevates the concept to the level of cutting-edge design in this awesomely contemporary show at the Swarm Gallery near Jack London Square in downtown Oakland. He covers most of the huge front showspace with the footprint of his prefabricated, 150-square-foot hut, which comes in 38 wooden pieces and takes four people five hours to erect. Computer-controlled saws using directions from an AutoCAD diagram precisely delineate the basic geometric forms, which Fleishman notches for doors, stairs, and windows. Several models of the work stand nearby and precut wooden chairs going for up to $1,800 apiece dot the room. Modern materials and fabrication techniques are turning even what could be cheap architecture into a designer’s dream. Fleishman is only hinting at some of the possibilities. — D2 (Through June 18 at 560 2nd St., Oakland; or 510-839-2787.)

Weird Science — Bright colors, clean figures, and evocative layouts define the strong work of Lisa Ostapinski hanging in the small gallery at Mama Buzz through May 31. She offers 52 paintings emphasizing vibrant wildlife juxtaposed with the forms of urbanity in this exhibition, one of the strongest of which is “Polar Bear,” a four-by-three-foot painting dominated by a large beige polar bear and striking red and gold vegetation. Ostapinski uses the novel process of dipping her work in encaustic — a beeswax and resin substance that adds a sheen and allows for cutting into the surface of the painting with equally stunning silver inlay. The small but mighty “How Do They Fly?” depicts silhouettes of pink geese in flight, contrasted with telephone wires in inlays. The work moves and shimmers — two adjectives that apply to many paintings in this decorative yet professional collection. — D2 (Through May 31 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; or 510-465-4073.)

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