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.”

The Art of Sprawl — One assumes it’s no accident that the region’s public transit overlord is hosting an exhibit of paintings about urban sprawl by Chico-born artist Ginny Parsons. Either way, Metropolitan Transportation Commission headquarters over at the MetroCenter in downtown Oakland hosts 24 curious steel-on-watercolor paintings of brown hillsides cut by metal progress, and variations on that theme. Dodge MTC bureaucrats in narrow office hallways, and avoid nosy security guards during arguably one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable public art viewings you will ever undergo. The work’s OK, but the experience will make you fear for the future of mass transit. — D2 (Through April 29, at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, 101 8th St., Oakland; 510-464-7700.)

Blew Back Pt 2— Eric Sager continues his one-man pictorial safari of Oakland with a second exhibition of stills at the Urban Blend Cafe. The five no-name pieces were shot on 35mm cameras and processed with regular printer paper. If they had names, the exhibit would read: Old man walking gritty street; Art chick in slip clutches teddy bear; Older African-American gent’s portrait; Sitting hobo in ray of light; and Skyline in negative, from perspective of bus stop. Not terribly original, but extra points must be awarded for thematic consistency. — D2 (Runs through April 30 and 333 Broadway, Oakland; 510-444-4648.)

De-Framed — Oakland artists Caleb Rogers and Mark Taylor turn the Auto 3321 art gallery into a giant canvas with this enveloping exhibition. Rogers starts with multimedia collages on paper that metastasize vertically, diagonally, and horizontally, sending bright angular lines and painted patterns across the floor and ceiling. Taylor parries with genuine wallpaper and drawer-lining-paper-based surrealist imagery, the best of which clone Welsh corgis in different shades of plaid. The gallery pops with chaotic color and light that could’ve devolved into a bad interior decoration experiment, given less restrained hands. — D2 (Closing reception April 29; 3321 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-593-8489.)

Effacements: An Exploration in Portrait — Maverick East Bay curator Joyce Gordon should’ve called this exhibit “Defacements” after taking one look at the spot-on caricature of a raccoon-eyed Michael Jackson figuring prominently in this twenty-painting show by Oakland’s Ali Dadgar. The Iranian-born veteran artist mixes pop iconography with Islamic symbolism and a fair amount of his own cryptic musings, resulting in a distinctly dark yet capricious tone. — D2 (Through May 7 at 406 14th St., Oakland; 510-465-8928.)

Tiger, whatever, I’m drinking leather — Artist, lazy lout, how do you fool people? John Oakland, a suspiciously named resident of Oakland, displays his contempt for coffee shop exhibitions with five cursory digital photos blown up, printed out, glued to the wall, and called an exhibit. The only novelty here is the enormous size of these vinyl prints, running up to twelve square-feet and consuming gobs of ink. The best one presents a dark vision of an indoor pot farm dubbed “Oaksterdam Spot,” the rest are just crude digital stills of friends in bands, art gallery openings and pieces of art — a self-referential scenester circle jerk, if there ever was one. –D2 (Through April 29, at Mama Buzz, 2318 Telegraph Ave.; 510-834-4321).

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. (Through April 29 at the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley; 510-642-3383.)

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