.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.”

Acting Out: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore — For centuries, no one questioned why all the great artists were men. It was not until the 1970s that feminist art historians began a decades-long effort to give women artists some of the attention they were historically denied. Some devoted their efforts to unearthing forgotten or misplaced women artists. Others have taken a more radical path, arguing that we need to look at art, artists, and artmaking differently, to challenge built-in biases in art history and criticism. This Surrealist photography show reflects both of these struggles and tells the story of a lifelong partnership and artistic collaboration between two women whose work has only recently resurfaced. Cahun and Moore met and fell in love as schoolgirls. Between 1920 and 1937, the couple produced hundreds of photographs of Cahun. In some, she experiments with androgyny; in others, she interprets literary or historical male and female roles. The irony is that while one forgotten artist has been celebrated, the other has been left out of the picture. Someone else actually took these photos, Moore, and she was Cahun’s lover. The current exhibit presents these photographs as products of a collaborative process and as an extension of performance art, which captivated the two women from the start of their relationship. — B.K. (Through July 31 at the Judah L. Magnes Museum; Magnes.org or 510-549-6950.)

The Chess Set — Four thousand dollars for a crying ceramic unicorn head on top of a huge chess piece? Come on. Sculptor Jane Grimm fuels disdain for public art with sixteen human-size ceramic chess pieces that try to take advantage of the boring, gray-tiled lobby of the Oakland Museum of California at City Center Sculpture Court. — D2 (Through August 10 at 1111 Broadway, Oakland; 510-238-2200.)

Sculpture by Bruce Beasley: A 45-Year Retrospective — It takes guts to be Bruce Beasley. Three years ago, the Oakland-based sculptor created Vitality, the monumental abstract sculpture that sits atop the fountain at Frank Ogawa Plaza downtown. While it may not be the artistic pinnacle of his career, to most Oaklanders, Vitality is an introduction to his artistry and temerity. Now a retrospective at the Oakland Museum offers the curious a chance to gain greater insight into the career of this gifted man who adopted West Oakland as his home more than four decades ago. — B.K. (Through July 31 at the Oakland Museum; MuseumCA.org or 510-238-2200.)


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