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.)

Chino Latino Meets the Angel Baby — This photography exhibit by gallery owner Bob Jew is billed as “The next chapter of the Kai Doy Jook Sing en Mexico series.” Even the title leaves viewers feeling a little out of the loop. The first chapter was on display last winter at the Craft and Cultural Arts Gallery in Oakland, and provided a bit more context. This collection of photos, largely reflecting a photojournalist’s sentiment, leaves the viewers feeling as if they stumbled into a miniseries half-way through, unsure of the plot line and the characters. After some research, we learn that these photos are from Oaxaca; they typically depict social unrest (a teacher’s strike had become a general one, and many of the shots are filled with policemen in full riot gear), or a stark juxtaposition of rich and poor, native and tourist. The most visually arresting image is “Mariachi Wallpaper,” a close-up of the torsos of a fully outfitted mariachi band, forming a riot of intricate patterns. (Through May 31 at 35 Grand Ave., Oakland; or 510-444-1900.)

Clausen House Artists — Clausen House is a facility for adults with developmental disabilities, and the Buzz Gallery at Mama Buzz is currently displaying works by several of them. Upon entering the gallery, viewers’ first impression is of an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat. What this says about Basquiat, or naive art, or art in general would require more words than allotted here, but viewers are struck by the bold colors (black, red, and green predominate), the awkward and graceful stick figures that people the works, and the wide swaths of paint. One large group mural is painted directly on the back wall of the gallery, and the artists’ different styles merge with few noticeable seams. Jahi Walker’s “Lord, Got Milk” is an appeal both obscure and poignant, while Patricia Scott’s several pieces featuring geometric shapes outlined in solid black remind you of Piet Mondrian on a slightly less exacting day. (Through April 27 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; or 510-465-4073.)

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;


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