On the Wall

Our critics weigh in on local art.

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.”

Celebrating Frank Bette — Talk about an unusual suspect. Loner artisan Bette lived decades in old Alameda, working ostensibly as an antique-furniture restorer. He had no wife, no kids, no extended family, few friends, and apparently no girlfriends. But inside his solitary Victorian, the German native churned out the work of a knuckles-to-kneebones arts fanatic. In death, he left about 7,000 diverse artworks, from exquisitely tender still-life sketches to abstract woodworking. He also willed his house to become an arts center, with his unsuspecting friends as directors. The discovery and catalog of Alameda arts’ own Keyser Soze continues with a posthumous solo show. — D2 (Through Dec. 31 at 1601 Paru St., Alameda; FrankBetteCenter.org or 510-523-6957.)

CP-37 Solo Show — Hosting its third show since its September opening, fledgling culture titan LoBot Gallery scores big with a vibrant, violent, huge, and messy beast from artist CP-37. Dozens of four-by-seven-feet mixed-media paintings tower over visitors in the aircraft-hangar-sized gallery in West Oakland’s warehouse district. Bloody, scratched hearts and lewd nudes come off respectable and measured in this enormous exhibit. CP-37’s selling points reach $8,000. More than 1,100 people showed up at the October 29 reception. And some were even millionaires arriving in limos. Why all the fuss? Because CP throttles the iconography of power and fear until it cries, submits, and agrees to do his bidding. Can you? — D2 (Through Nov. 10 at the LoBot Gallery, 1800 Campbell St., Oakland; LoBotGallery.com or 510-798-6566.)

Curate This — Artists from six cultural nodes, including Liminal, 21 Grand, and Ego Park, contribute to this massive, eclectic, and raw show. A lot of non sequitur-type items like unexploded ordnance, pillow bags, mixed-media guns, and traffic signals look as though they came straight from the miscellaneous pile. — D2 (Through Nov. 5 at Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond; TheRAC.org or 510-620-6772.)

New Works — An uninventive title for an unassuming space. Look southwest from where Gilman hits the BART tracks and you see a fenced-off green area. A split boulder of granite spits water at the front entrance as a steel sculpture whirls nearby. “If Danny Elfman had a garden, this stuff would be in it,” you think. A New Leaf has hundreds of abstract fountains, whirling kinetic art, and tortured sculptures, all outdoors and ready for your backyard, assuming you have a couple grand to drop. The abstract steel shapes alienate, but the rush of dozens of fountains soothe. Part feng shui, part Beetlejuice. — D2 (Through Jan. 15, 2005 at A New Leaf; ANewLeafGallery.com or 510-525-7621.)

Threshold: Byron Kim 1990-2004 — Kim is best known for his pictures of skin color, without the texture or wrinkles of the real thing. His first solo show is a retrospective look at what this Korean-American artist has been doing since he burst on the art scene in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. Kim has continued to paint in monochromatic fields of color, sometimes placing two colors next to each other, sometimes multiple strips. In many cases, the effects are beautiful. Still, to fully appreciate the images, the viewer has to read the explanatory wall plaques. — B.K. (Through Dec. 12 at the Berkeley Art Museum; BAMPFA.Berkeley.edu or 510-642-0808.)

War, Peace, and Civil Liberties — A satirical sniper’s nest of antiwar art camouflages itself nicely in Berkeley’s Live Oak Park. Once you find the hard-to-see building, you’re rewarded with more than 150 multimedia takes on religion and war by 52 artists from across the United States and Canada. Antiwar art always gets heavy-handed, what with all the exploded babies and bomb-fetishes. The subtle stuff is stronger. For instance, Annie Holm’s enormous black and white 57″x43″ mugshot of a foreign exchange student warms the heart, until you see the mug is composed of more than 4,000 fingerprints from harassed students trying to get into the country to study. — D2 (Through Nov. 6. at the Berkeley Art Center; BerkeleyArtCenter.org or 510-644-6893.)

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, 2005; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)

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