Three July shows for your urgent consideration at Basement Gallery, Berkeley Art Center, and Martina Johnston Gallery.

Detail from Joseph Kowalczyk's "Bride of Thalidomide."

The words “monster” and “show” are etymologically related, so The Monster Show is a freakishly apt title for this exploration of “the corporal, the ephemeral, and the grotesque” in humorous Monster Mash style. Brük Dunbar’s ceramic “Worm Theory,” a sheet cake of composting annelids, is memorably unappetizing, and Matt Forristal’s fanged plush animals (“Sheepzilla”) and Robin Frohardt’s (and Mike O’Tool’s) inflatable “Trash Monster” are humorously absurd. Crystal Silva and Mars Jokela retrofit a trio of hand puppets with sinister animal skulls bearing dyed fake hair (“Orange Punk Skunk”), while Chris Ritson masks a porcelain female bodhisattva figurine with magnesium sulfate crystals (“Guanyin”). Joseph Kowalczyk’s sardonic “Bride of Thalidomide” reminds us that moral monsters walk among us, even if their victims can’t. Through August 6 at Basement Gallery (1027 3rd St., Oakland). 510-917-2230 or

Abstract Visions, curated by art historian Peter Selz, presents eight mid-career artists who work abstractly (more or less) in traditional media. Eva Bovenzi creates shimmering crystalline forms (“Get Your Things”) floating in darkness, “caught in the ephemeral moment between appearing and dissolving,” while Kevan Jenson traps normally fugitive smoke in his punningly entitled (and, yes, atmospheric) abstractions (“Rubens Onbound”). Donna Brookman (“Ragini IX”), Naomie Kremer (“Heliotrope”), and Keiko Nelson (“Waterfall”) employ texture and gesture to create evocative analogues for the organic world. Gloria Tanchelev (“Indeterminate/Blue”) makes nearly monochrome paintings that employ subtle color changes to evoke California’s light, while Gary Edward Blum (“Get Your Things”) works oppositely, incorporating realistically rendered objects within his rectangular color fields. Bruce Hasson’s archaeological, volcano-themed bronze sculptures (“Kilimanjaro,” “Vesuvius”), with their Babel-like pyramids and partly excavated human and animal parts, resemble tree stumps, pyres, and explosions: Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” in entropic collapse. Through August 7 at Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut  St., Berkeley). 510-644-6893 or

Veronica De Jesus and Reginia Clarkinia explore art as peaceful, joyous refuges in paintings and video, respectively, in Sanctuary. De Jesus’ paintings on colored paper are reminiscent of Kandinsky, Miro, and Klee, as well as ethnographic art, and have similar spiritual aims: The clustered floating forms include protection masks, open chakras, and prayer circles. Clarkinia’s video, “Untitled (Kid’s Show),” intersperses exuberantly dancing tots with cutout animal characters. (“Light Temple,” a collaborative installation designed by Jane Parrott and RH Lee, now disassembled, survives in documentation, awaiting resurrection elsewhere.) Through August 14 at Martina Johnston Gallery (1201 6th St., Oakland). 510-558-0993 or