On the Wall

Our critics weigh in on local art.

Reviews by David Downs and Brady Kahn

For complete up-to-date East Bay art listings, look under Billboard on the home page for the “Select Category” pulldown, then select “Art Galleries” or “Museums.”

The Black Dahlia Show — Don’t worry about possible gore at this tribute to the infamous wannabe actress who got sliced in half during 20th-century Hollywood’s most famous murder. The 21 Grand crew turns away from the gruesome details toward the kernel of anomie and failed dreams that have made the Dahlia story resonate through the years. Desolate Southern Californian parking lots, yards, washes, and children stare out at viewers in this minor exhibit. Largely photographic and video, the show offers ten prints, three videos, and a palpable sense of dashed dreams and desperation. — D2 (Through January 30 at 449-B 23rd St, Oakland; 510-444-7263.)

Transfigurations — A theological library snuggled into the Berkeley hills on the edge of Cal’s campus holds the detailed, compulsive work of deceased 20th-century draftsman A.G. Rizzoli. The Marin native worked in his spare time on enormously intricate, near-surreal architectural drawings, a dozen of which the library presents. Irwin Peter Sicotte Jr., Symbolic Delineation offers a superb example of the artist’s borderline autistic weirdness. A two-by-four-foot black-and-white gothic tower rises up the rag paper, adorned with tiny facade detailing, including statues, lampposts, and plaques — all referencing the real Sicotte Jr. Rizzoli embodied friends and family members in these buildings, including an enormous suicide citadel for his mother, whose death nearly destroyed him. — D2 (Through February 2 at 2400 Ridge Rd., Berkeley; 510-649-2400.)

The Vietnam War — Cal’s Northgate Hall yields black-and-white candids from the hills of Vietnam circa 1967, courtesy of then-21-year-old freelance photographer Catherine Leroy. Expect dying veterans, POWS, great framing, and a tight focus under what looks like live fire. The exhibit hinges on a chilling triptych in which a corpsman performs futile first aid on an injured buddy, with only the misty hills and the photographer to bear witness. The 18″x12″ prints burst with detail, from the blasted reeds to the bloody clothes to the sky reflecting off the scared GI’s corneas. Leroy will speak about the exhibit in March. — D2 (Through April 29 at the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley; 510-642-3383.)

What’s Going On? — The curators of the Oakland Museum’s ambitious new show about the Vietnam War era in California tell not one story but many. Along with a more straightforward chronology of the war itself, the show juxtaposes opposing voices. The accompanying audio tour is crucial to the viewer’s appreciation, but sadly, to get to often-riveting first-person accounts, patrons have to listen to a tedious summation of events relayed by an anonymous narrator. — B.K. (Through Feb. 27; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)

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