With only a dozen graduates, Mills College’s highly selective MFA program proves that less is definitely more, and this exhibition of their best recent work is not to be missed. The class of 2003 hails from California, New Mexico, New York, Spain, Israel, and Iceland. A few of them, like Lisa Solomon, are already familiar names on Bay Area’s gallery scene. The show runs from April 25 through May 25 with a reception on May 4 from 2-4 p.m. at the Mills College Art Museum, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland.Much of the work focuses on in-between states and spaces. Sewing, Lisa Solomon’s medium of choice, bridges the gap between drawing and sculpture, craft and fine art, and even masculine and feminine. Rosana Castrillo Diaz is fascinated with the fine line that separates representation from abstraction. She creates artworks that manage to be both at once. Her “Fragment” series focuses on random bits of photocopied material, while her tape sculptures are exactly that — configurations of transparent tape on the gallery wall that fade in and out of visibility under changing light conditions.
Mary Hull Webster also examines the space “between” reality and imagination, but she uses computer software, slide projectors, and other electronic gadgets to help her do it. Pulling images apart and reconfiguring them, she says, uncovers numerous new and totally unanticipated meanings.
“Collaborating with computers,” she says, “gives me a physical, psychological, and virtual center from which to venture beyond my own intentionality.”
The most experimental artist in the group is probably Sylvia Min, whose art projects depend heavily on viewer participation. For Threads, she says, “I asked the audience for an article of clothing that was missing a button or needed mending. The artwork started with the invitation, then continued as I shopped for matching buttons, fabric, and thread. I scanned the garments, mended them, returned them, and reproduced their images.” The final products of all this give-and-take reveal as much about the audience as about Min herself.
The other graduate students featured in the show are Soffia Saemundsdottir (whose immense drawings measure as large as nine by twelve feet), Connie M. Begg (photography and video), Kristine Fitzgerald (painting and photography), Amy Hibbs (sculpture), Tamalyn Miller (sculpture and poetry), James Sterling Pitt (painting), Mark Allen Soderstrom (sculpture and illustration), and Nomi Talisman (cinema).— Lindsey Westbrook
Jazz, the all-American urban art form, takes on a different feel in the suburbs. Family style entertainment is the name of the game, but the Rivertown Art Center is trying to inject some sizzle into Antioch with its own jazz concert series. Only two dates have been set up so far — including Friday’s performance by the Moment’s Notice quartet (7-9 p.m.) — but center director Nancy Roberts hopes to make it a monthly affair. The music is free. 640 W. 2nd St., Antioch. 925-755-8466 or www.acfantioch.org — Kelly Vance
Dreads ‘n’ Mopeds
You can’t fault the organizers of the Skank-Irie Sounds Reggae Fest for lack of truth in advertising. Lack of titular creativity, perhaps. But bands such as Monkey, Santa Cruz’ Dub Congress, San Mateo County’s Pacific Vibrations, Cupertino’s Sneaky Long, and Dub FX are sure to bring out the red, green, and gold in all comers, and inspire the most uptight in the crowd to skank their troubles away. You’re gonna have to go all the way to the Gaslighter Theater (400 East Campbell Ave., Campbell), but hey, it’s cheaper and faster than a plane ride to Jamaica. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and costs $8. Call 408-866-1408 for details. –Stefanie Kalem
Do Do that Voodoo
Felipe Flores is a writer, filmmaker, and also a woodcarver. His exhibition of wood sculptures, Flirting with Death I Found Holiness (which is also the title of Flores’ autobiography), celebrates a fantastically wide range of Hispanic and African-American celebrities/icons; everyone from rap impresario Suge Knight to singer Dorothy Dandridge to porn actress Vanessa Del Rio. Each sculpture takes the form of an altarpiece, incorporating semiprecious stones, clothing, voodoo amulets — anything that summons the spirit of the subject. The show opens this Saturday at Ardency Gallery in downtown Oakland (709 Broadway, 510-836-0831) with a reception at 5 p.m., and runs through May 24. — Kelly Vance