In the Galleries

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

Demolition or “Civic Pride Through Civic Improvement” — This exhibition at the Oakland Main Library commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of urban renewal in Oakland. From Governor Earl Warren’s Redevelopment Act of 1945 to 2005 proposals to improve the waterfront, the exhibit demonstrates that dry mix of hope, financial incentive, competing senses of enfranchisement and disenfranchisement, and ultimate discouragement that characterizes so many not-quite-realized grand urban projects. (Through September 15 at 125 14th St., Oakland; or 510-328-3222.)

Down There — “Down there” is an allusion to euphemism, which is sometimes what art is — the attempt to say something without actually saying it. But art more often is a euphemism in reverse, the less polite, more unsettling way of saying something about the everyday. Here Susan Ayako Higo and Meadow Presley take mostly familiar objects and recast them into slightly embarrassing forms. Higo’s “The Egg” is a tea-tinted gelatin egg encasing a phallic banana — insert Freudian interpretation here — and requires refrigerator storage to prevent rapid decomposition. It leaves a sickly-fruit stink in its wake. It’s kind of genius. Higo’s works also include dozens of daintily constructed paper snowflakes, some of whose shapes are kaleidoscopes of guns or mud-flap naked ladies. Presley’s most intricate works include two pieces titled “sew buttons on your underwear,” one a pair of panties thickly covered in multicolored buttons, the second stitched all over in nacre buttons, as if constructed of tiny seashells and meant for that mermaid who might somehow find a use for underwear. (Through September 25 at Front Gallery, 35 Grand Ave., Oakland; or 510-444-1900.)


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