In the Galleries

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

American Carnival Portraits — Linda Kramer’s large-scale C-prints of carnivalgoers seem somehow familiar, even if you haven’t seen her work before. They are technically adept and visually interesting, but not much different from works by Larry Kramer or Nan Goldin (with a little less drama and a lot less violence). The photos feature random attendees at carnivals from Concord to Twinsburg, Ohio, and go far to transform the usually anonymous crowd into individualized figures. Against a background of blurred carnival neon, the portraits give great attention to the faces and bodies of their subjects. Nevertheless, as these subjects seem to have been given time to put their best personas forward, the images show viewers more about how people want to be seen than some deep story of who they “are.” This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of these works, especially in the daring toughness of “Las Niñas” and the coy humor in the face of “Carny.” (Through January 2 at 713 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda; or 510-205-9793.)

New Works at Swarm Gallery — In this group show, Michael Cutlip’s work consists of mixed media — pencil sketches, magazine cutouts, and dashes of spray paint — arranged on panels. Occasionally he gets the colors right (“Isolation” has a nice juxtaposition of reds and watery greens), but these pieces seem to have emerged more from the artist’s boredom than from inspiration. Gage Opdenbrouw has certainly nailed the monochromatic winterscape of some northern clime, although the relentlessly gray palette mostly reminds us why we live in California. Still, Mark Baugh-Sasaki’s sculptures, inspired by abandoned industrial buildings, are both awkward and elegant in their homage to the fumblings of man’s attempts to force nature into use. And Linda Braz’ “An Extraordinary Pastiche of Fragility” — a loose weave of white silk burned at random intersections — is beautifully delicate, while the black of the charred threads gives the piece a wounded quality that elicits an edge of sympathy and pity that creeps closer to sublimity than to beauty. (Through December 31 at 560 2nd St., Oakland; or 510-839-2787.)

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