In the Galleries

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

CCA Alumni Show — Work by graduates of the California College of the Arts is on display at Montclair Gallery in Oakland (a second installment will be at the Garage Gallery in San Francisco). There is a wide range of work, some by well-circulated artists like Jessamyn Lovell and Leslie Safarik, others lesser known. Rosemary Allen’s “Construction Worker III” is a stand-out; she aptly captures the hues and textures of rust in her oil portrait. “Matchbox Heart” by Michele Pred (it should, technically, be “Matchbook Heart”) is surprisingly melancholy in its use of old, battered, and largely generic matchbooks to form an awkward heart. Kathleen Walsh’s utilitarian sculptures are beautiful in their graceful lines, whimsical in their subject matter — “Carlos Night Light,” for instance, is a night light in the shape of a chihuahua with a lampshade collar around its porcelain neck. And Lilya Vorobey’s “Why I didn’t make art today” diptych of pencil sketches on coffee cups is both quirky and evocative. (Through April 30 at 1986 Mountain Blvd., Oakland; 510 339-4286.)

Creative Growth — Creative Growth is a gallery and workshop for “visionary artists with disabilities” — according to its literature, the oldest in the world. Its current group show features Olga Bielma, Gina Damerell, Jackie Frank, and Rosena Finster. Their works — with bold colors and naive perspectives — hint at complex stories whose plots are not quite determined. Damerell and Frank’s paintings tend to feature a single or repeated figure — birds, animals, flowers — and use vibrant colors; Frank seems particularly entranced with chickens. Her “Kuku Chicken” and “Kotopoulo Chicken” series includes a CD cabinet that is a riot of reds, oranges, and flocks and flocks of birds. Bielma’s works include text — sometimes comprehensible, sometimes not — with her images of the Venus of Willendorf and other figures. Perhaps the most jarring of the works is Anthony Eng’s “Drug Drawings and Not Too Much,” a series of childlike images of pills (including a shirt embroidered with drug capsules), syringes, and a naked woman (this one declaring “Sex” and “I love U”). (Through April 12 at 355 24th St., Oakland; or 510-836-2340.)

Measure of Time — Although all the press is focused on the Berkeley Art Museum’s Nauman show, there’s another exhibit there worth seeing. “Measure of Time” purports to be a meditation on time and duration; viewers aren’t absolutely certain whether this is an excuse to bring out some of the museum’s permanent collection, or a cohesive thematic. There are some excellent pieces, including Sol LeWitt’s “A Sphere Lit from the Top, Four Sides, and All Their Combinations,” Jim Campbell’s “Shadow (for Heisenberg),” and Shirley Shor’s newly acquired “Landslide.” Joseph Stella’s “Bridge” joins the avant-garde film Manhatta and Max Weber’s “Night” in an homage to the speed and density of the emerging urban landscape of the early 20th century. (Through June 24 at 2626 Bancroft Way; or 510-624-0808.)

200 Second Street — It is hard not to be snide about a so-called mural project that is entirely contained within a complex of condos selling for $650 a square foot. Indeed, this “dedication to neighborhood beautification” seems to be entirely for the benefit of those possessing the entry code to this mini-gated community. The art opening for these works, populated by your usual scruffy hipster artists mulling beside besuited millionaires, included a tour of model units. The murals, I suppose, serve as much a selling point as the stainless-steel kitchen appliances and the 114-square-foot decks. That being said, the two murals — if you ever get to see them — are quite nice. Each spans the two floors of wall space opposite the elevators; Andrew J. Schoultz’ “Regeneration” is a orchard of trees exploding fluorescent leaves from their branches and severed limbs, while Casey Jex Smith’s “Polarized” is a captivating semipointillist work of black-and-white topography, a brightly colored box-kite-like object floating overhead. (Permanent installation at 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: or 510-839-2787.)

Un Lugar Solitario — Tucked between rundown houses and an industrial parking lot for boxcars, the Gallery of Urban Art might, at first glance, appear to be more on the side of the urban than of art. But the elegantly peaceful gallery, which doubles as the lobby for Alpha Real Estate, Inc., could be in any downtown office. Indeed, Michele Ramirez’ painterly oils of landscapes and farmland are anything but urban. Ramirez is not shy about layering on the paint. Her largely unpeopled works are about form, the solidity of color, the definitiveness of line over the subtlety of shading. Some of the pieces, such as “Lot For Sale,” are like early studies for an Edward Hopper painting — lonely and bold all at once. Yet Ramirez lets the empty faces of the figures that do appear portray something other than Hopper’s urban malaise. Their absence of detailed features could as easily reflect self contentment as disconnectedness, and speak to the double sense of “a solitary place.” (Through April 24 at 1746 13th St, Oakland;

Well Hung Boontling Gallery’s “Overhung 3” is up — its third nonjuried show of everything anyone drops off. Every inch of its small space is covered by the 238 works — some, as you would imagine, rather better than others. There are a surprising number of bare breasts (perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise?) and the occasional naked penis, and five black-and-white paintings by Mike Terry taken from Bettie Page’s wrestling matches (the “Bettie Battles Gwen” series). Dan Nelson’s fur-framed “Self-Portrait with Stella in My Birthday Suit,” a photograph of the artist lounging naked with his Siamese cat, is a particularly whimsical version of the skin theme, as is Alex Rosmarin’s “Coochie Poochie,” a cartoonish watercolor of a nude reclining with her puppy and purple cat-eye glasses. There are also less fleshy pieces — Jorge Mascarenhas’ Beauty in his “Beauty and the Beast” gazes at the viewer with a hauntingly empty stare, and Tony Speirs’ three paintings eerily display the nightmare side of nostalgia and childhood in a tweaked vernacular of advertising. (Through April 15 at 4224 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley; or 510-295-8881.)


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