On the Wall

Our critics weigh in on local art.

Ritz and Stewart: Two Artists of the Courtroom — Good ol’ Charlie Manson and his crazy-Jesus stare dominates this fun new 36-piece exhibit of court art from locals Walt Stewart and Rosalie Ritz. Manson and his flock get an eighth of the space to themselves, complete with icy in-situ poses of Manson in court and group portraits, the best of which feature bizarre composites of “The Family” in hues of red and blue. Patricia Hearst plays second fiddle to the Manson stuff. Her mugs are less recognizable, but more detailed; offering the best in fashion from decades past. Expect spot-on treatments of plaid blue blazers, brown sport coats, Afros, and huge hoop earrings. These court artists take you there in a way that A&E documentaries can never imitate, though supplementary historic case information is included for non-A& E watchers. — D2 (Through March 31 at the Doe Library, UC Berkeley.)

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.)

Together We Survive — Photomontage artist Keba Konte and sculptor eesuu explore and stimulate the emotional response to faces with Together We Survive, an arresting and intriguing exhibit at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland. Part photo-real, part primordial, this exhibit dwells almost explicitly on African-American visages: men, women, and children from across the world whispering and shouting at the viewer. Konte’s loud and evocative Long Road High Cloud dominates the twenty-piece exhibit with a huge, timeless face photo-transferred to a wood plank, possibly a headboard. His art follows two rules: use only original photos and found materials. Konte’s focus on the face leads to uncanny borders of near-perfect replication, whereas eesuu’s love takes faces in the opposite direction, back in time. Eesuu’s seven busts of elongated, heavily morphed black and green faces depict classical Zimbabwean Shona sculpture in transition, dealing with the distance between Africa and Oakland. A two-dimensional version of eesuu’s work would look like Cubism under high heat, melting and realigning, referencing the lines of street graffiti. Konte mixes media and messages creating a riddle barrage, while eesuu relaxes and lets the stone do its thing. He is less emphatic, but equally mysterious. Longtime coexhibitors, the two are complemented by the Gordon Gallery’s setup. Gordon let Konte paint the walls while eesuu decorated the floor, adding installation work to enhance the impact of individual pieces. The art no longer ends at the edge of the piece, but spills down pedestals and climbs up the walls. — D2 (Through March 30 at the Joyce Gordon Gallery; 510-465-8928.)

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.)

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