Cheap Wine, Free Cheese

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Bay Area Currents 2006 — A riotous collision of rabid, two-headed dogs and gushing blood overwhelms the senses in what should be a tame little juried exhibition in downtown Oakland. Instead, the Oakland Art Gallery picked an Angeleno with an eye for fun to sort through 300 submissions and winnow the bounty down to 13 lucky locals, who each offer just one or two pieces in the 2,000-square-foot space. Everything’s got room to breathe and each piece needs it, because this collection feels huge. Ana Fernandez’ “Procession” simulates the color and lines of Chinese red dragons from afar, but up close it’s ink-on-paper man-dogs and evil jesters, hearts and veins and demons and angels. In the window, little beach crabs crawl over suspended ledges in James Sansing’s “Support System,” a mixed-media sculpture of concrete, brick, and found objects that ascends through the vertical space of the gallery to the roof. Then out of nowhere, Tabitha Soren of MTV News fame makes an appearance as photographer of oddly loaded domestic scenes. (Through June 30 at 199 Kahn’s Alley, Oakland;

Gathering Time — Statues, temples, and incense at Angkor Wat and other mysterious Cambodian locales hover in the halls of the Photolab Gallery. Senior photographer Hedi B. Desuyo succeeds in stopping time with these 39, mostly 11″-by-14″ black-and-white prints, exquisitely processed, mounted, and framed. The stand-out shot is “Shelter,” a wide-format, nearly abstract landscape taken from out in the water. It’s a minimalist piece that derives its strength from the interplay of form and tone between the black rippling water and the barren, windswept land. A lone male figure lumbers through the center-top of the frame carrying supplies for a sad little shelter — a thin, thatched hut etched into the bright sand. The art goes for $230 to $340 per piece, which tends to be worth it, given Desuyo’s choice of subject, focus, framing, film development, and overall packaging. (Through June 24 at 2235 Fifth St., Berkeley;

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