In the Galleries

Our critics review local visual arts exhibitions.

The Art of Food — K Gallery, in Alameda’s newly opened Rhythmix Cultural Center, is hosting a food-themed exhibit. Works by six artists are on display, some tending more toward grotesque fascination than reverence, some purely irreverent. Janet Delaney’s photographs bring into focus the abjection of food: discarded bits of chopped meat, a spoon digging into disturbingly fleshy fruit. Gail Skoff’s black-and-white photos of produce call to mind those inelegant human zones we tend to keep covered up. And yet the lushness of the objects is also fully apparent, and Delaney and Skoff’s eye for light and texture draws you into these gorgeous grotesqueries. Guy Diehl and Wendy Yoshimura show, on the other hand, a reverence for fruit’s ripe beauty — Diehl’s in homage to Renaissance still life, Yoshimura’s through shimmeringly rendered watercolor prints of fruit in glass bowls. (Through July 29 at Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda; or 510-845-5060.)

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.)

Flags and Anthems — Jeff Ray and Katrina Lam have collaborated in Keys That Fit’s latest display. Based on observations the two made of New York’s Roosevelt Island and our own Treasure Island, they are attempting to explore the idea of patriotism on one of its smallest scales — the sense of belonging and loyalty one has for an island in the midst of a city. While this concept is rife with possibilities, Ray and Lam have not much capitalized on them, and the early version of the show consists of a haphazard and rudimentary island constructed of plywood, a few proposed flags, and a handwritten project proposal taped to the window. The artists promise to expand their piece, adding elements throughout its tenure, including “site notes, correspondence, scores for anthems, etc.” and culminating in a musical performance of anthems of the artists’ own composing on July 21. (Through July 27 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.)

Nancy Flores — No, you haven’t walked into an exhibit of Jack Vettriano’s lesser-known works. Java Rama Coffee Shop is showing Nancy Flores’ paintings, which demonstrate her fascination with glamour and a dancer’s appreciation for the svelte and muscular female form. The subjects of the paintings fill the frames but never look directly at the viewer, thus drawing your attention to a well-formed back, the trim outlines of a tiny belly, or the streamlined shape of a deceptively powerful calf. (Through August 31 at 1333 Park St., Alameda; 510-523-2116.)

Lush Life: The ACCI Garden Show — ACCI Gallery’s current show is an homage to nature. Its fifteen artists all take some piece of the great outdoors as their subject matter. Some of these are rather banal renderings, but some are gorgeous and surprising transformations of Mother Nature’s artifacts into art. Marlie de Swart’s pottery platters, coasters, and hanging candle holders are perfect (and sturdy) leaves, veined and textured as if just plucked from a giant clay plant of some prehistoric locale. Mark Rhoades’ photography turns the macro lens on stamens and stems, and gives nature a constructed quality that turns flowers into lollipops or the secret undersides of a ruffled petticoat. Jean Hearst’s paintings of birds combine solidity, stiffness, and a slightly naive perspective to create quasimythical images that would fit perfectly within the pages of a yet-to-be-published book of fairy tales. (Through July 8 at 1652 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley; or 510-843-2527.)

Paved Paradise: Perspectives on (Human) Nature by Contra Costa Youth — The Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek is showing all entries in this open art contest for Contra Costa County high school students. Predictably, there is a hefty contingent of knowing critique of capitalism, racism, and environmental degradation — the blue-and-green Earth makes frequent appearances as victim in parables of human nature’s more destructive tendencies. Yet, there are some mature and impressive works from these young artists. Juan Becerra’s “Skyline Past” uses the brightest of cherry reds in his juxtaposition of the tail-end of a Nissan Skyline and the Aztec pictographic wheel depicting the creation of the world; Caroline Grape’s video essay “Parallel” showcases impressive production quality as it pairs images of first-world wealth and consumerism (a smiling white nuclear family with mini-mansion and lush lawn) with third-world penury and want (an African family clustered among lean-to shelters and dust). (Through July 22 at 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek; or 925-295-1417.)

Spirit of the Peoples of Southwest China — The current display at Addison Street Windows Gallery — photographs by Martin Newman and textiles and objects courtesy of Nancy McKay Trading Company — looks like a cheerful museum display. Newman’s photographs of the minority Yi population of southwest China are vibrantly colored images of happy, well-lit indigenous people, with an occasional glimpse of mud huts, thatched roofs, and dusty roads. Although Newman claims that his work is an attempt to “make a visual record before [the Yi] are absorbed into the globally homogenizing culture,” the danger here is of “rescuing” them by turning their uniqueness into a commodity. Indeed, when McKay describes her motivation for collecting objects for import — they are “inspired by deep cultural roots in folk art, textiles, and everyday furnishings bearing the patina of age” — she may just as well be talking about the weather-worn and grinning faces of Newman’s photos. (Through July 8 at 2018 Addison St, Berkeley; 510 981 7546.)

Summer Breeze in Paint — The two-year-old Artscape is located in a small house with a large backyard. This “gallery and sculpture garden” doubles as a high-end art shop, and thus leans toward interesting but largely unchallenging works. Leslie Safarik’s clay cats are scattered about the place, as are Mitch La Plante’s oversize glass fruits and vegetables and Archie Held’s $8,000 fountains. There are also nice surprises, such as John Oldani’s found-object art, and David Mudgett’s steel spiders. (Through August 9 at 1161 Alpine Rd., Walnut Creek; or 925 944 1544.)

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. Each mural 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. (At 200 Second St., Oakland, sponsored by Swarm Gallery: or 510-839-2787.)


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