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.”

Deciphering the Code — More than 36 pieces from a handful of artists entice visitors to this medium-spanning collection from the “Taking the Leap” art class. Notably, Zahava Sherez presents six haunting ceramic shrouds, innards hollowed out, then reloaded with symbolic materials like plants and newspaper. Also, Lorraine Bonner’s cryptic black clay busts offer demon heads, hollowed skulls and cracked glass hearts as Bonner grapples with a childhood of immense abuse. The exhibit lacks a thematic center, but its playful splashing about rewards. — D2 (Through February 25 at 6121 Hollis St., Emeryville.)

Serving the People: The Black Panther Party Photographs — Eighteen black-and-white photos from the Party’s active period record various Panthers’ efforts to educate, feed, and run for government in the Bay Area. Focus and framing doesn’t impress, and more history can be gleaned from books in the Oakland library. However, the exhibit excels as a collection of candids from a bygone era. Check out the Afros, berets and Mao jackets, Maya Angelou in a classroom, Huey Newton behind bars, and the timeless traffic stop of a black man by white cops, shotguns drawn. — D2 (Through March 19 at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 510-981-6100.)

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″ x 12″ 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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