What’s Happening in East Bay Art

Our critics weigh in on local art.

Angie Brown and Dan Lewis — Judging by the severed hands, Godzilla drawings, alien oral sex, and penises, Dan Lewis has cornered the market on “abused fourth grader” folk art. The California College of Arts and Crafts graduate and Berkeley resident has crates upon crates of notebook-size paintings and pencil drawings, two dozen of which were selected by Boontling Gallery curators for a show with fellow CCAC grad Angie Brown. Lewis’ work looks deliberately shoddy on the surface, but there’s a coherent theme indicating at least a plan if not a message. The repetition of crudely drawn men and women — most with empty eye sockets (i.e., no soul) — in various states of everyday living eventually gets under the skin and creeps viewers out; a nice contrast to Brown’s earnest female nudes. — D2 (Through January 8 at 4224 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; BoontlingGallery.com or 707-980-1060.)

Lewis & Clark: The Corps of Discovery — East Bay punks can’t compete with the original outcasts of this tragic kingdom. Tattoo Archive takes us back to a time when face tattoos on chicks were hot and faux-hawks could get you killed. The little ink-hole on San Pablo doesn’t look like your traditional tattoo shop, what with all the bookshelves and evidence of scholarship. And it isn’t. Owner C.W. Eldridge is a Berkeley tattooing legend, writer, and scholar. In commemoration of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, he threw together a little exhibit of Indian ink on the south wall. (Through July 31 at 2804 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; TattooArchive.com or 510-548-5895.)

Mama Buzz Window Installation — The most infuriating art on Telegraph Avenue this week doesn’t even look like art, it looks like commerce. Huge posters of the Starbucks Coffee insignia and the phrase “Coming Soon!” cover the storefront windows of an empty shop adjacent to Mama Buzz Cafe in Oakland. It looks as if the imperious Melusine (look it up) deigns to crush the little art-school coffee shop, and its customers are pissed off. According to one of the Buzz owners (in on the guerrilla installation), “People are coming in and saying, ‘What the fuck?,’ asking me if I want the windows broken out. I tell them, ‘No, no. It’ll be good for us in the long run.'” Weird thing is: it’s true. The embattled neighborhood cleans itself up more each year, and a Starbucks will be a badge of honor as much as a nefarious serpent. For now, the hipsters have their own “crucifix in a toilet bowl of urine.” It just wants to serve them mochas. — D2 (Through December 21 at 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.)

Parallel Investigations II — ProArts’ new curator Christian Frock has a special place in her heart for a-literates (people who can read but find it vaguely painful). She even has this theory about how people never read more than two hundred words per gallery visit. With that in mind, she lets Jason Mortara go buck wild with a spacy video installation. Mortara combines some cool NASA graphics of a Rover mission to Mars with some tape recordings of him mumbling things like “I needed a change,” “It makes perfect sense,” and, “I’ll make sure to write.” (Through December 30 at 550 2nd St., Oakland; ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361.)

Rebirth: New Photos of Armenia, Georgia, and the Former Yugoslavia — Eastern Europe is the new Western Europe: cheap, inviting, and stocked with young blond locals long gone from convalescent homes like Paris or, egad, London. Vaughn Hovanessian stokes Berkeley’s wanderlust for the Easy E with more than two dozen digital prints from parts once behind the Iron Curtain or recently cluster-bombed. Unfortunately, he almost entirely ignores the people — who are rumored to be both limber and friendly — for architecture studies that would be laughable had they not looked great and sported awesome names like “Ljubljana Bridge, Dubrovnik,” “Mostar Bridge, Bosnia,” and “Zagreb, Croatia.” Hovanessian gets the best of what these war-torn cities have to offer; now he needs to go back for some people. (Through January 8 at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St.; BerkeleyPublicLibrary.org or 510-981-6100.)

Trees: A Favorite Subject in Japanese Art — Auteurs like the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix) and Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack) love to rip off the visual tropes of traditional Japanese naturalism because of one word: specificity. These more than two dozen old-school Japanese woodcuts aim at one thing per print — a moonlit stream, the contrasting patterns of light in a bamboo forest. Action directors love this kind of object fetishism because it’s evocative even without the presence of people or action. The Scriptum-Schurman gallery strips away the bullets and bushido blades from pop conceptions of Japanese art, and what’s left is just as dynamic and enthralling. (Through December 31 at 1659 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; Scriptum.com or 510-524-0623.)

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