What’s Happening in East Bay Art

Our critics weigh in on local art.

The Art of Living Black 2006 Group Show — More than a hundred artists ponied up $80 to show at this unjuried group exhibit with the feel of a swap meet. Eyeballs can’t help but stick to Shawn Weeden’s playful, orange-drenched “Boogie Woogie.” Weeden uses nine square feet of interwoven line lattices that are slightly offset to scramble retinal signals until the thing vibrates on the wall. Bright colors in bold forms also fuse with a graphic novelist’s layout and design sensibility in Malik Seneferu’s “Omnipotent,” where twin tapestries of FedEx arrows frame a cityscape dominated by a male silhouette. Then there’s Casper Banjo’s mixed media piece “Confrontation,” in which the artisthides Spy vs. Spy eyeballs in an otherwise competent piece of MOMA-bound abstract art. Keep in mind that the cream of the TAOLB 2006 crop is scattered throughout ten other East Bay galleries. (Through March 19 at the Richmond Arts Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond; www.therac.org or 510-620-6772.)

Building City Beautiful: Mayor Mott’s Oakland — Century-old photographs, news clippings, telegraph transcripts, and book excerpts tell a tale of corruption, hope, and fire in early-20th-century Oakland this week at the Oakland Public Library. Timed to coincide with the centennial of Mayor Frank K. Mott’s reign (1905-1915) and the San Francisco earthquake and fire (1906), the ironically named exhibit leaves a lot of questions unanswered about the place that was once called the “Carthage of the Pacific.” What happened to all the money Mott secured for the city’s residents when he took back the waterfront and port from private interests? How did a place built on “culture and commerce” end up lagging behind a neighbor that burnt to the ground, discharging 165,000 smoky refugees? Building City Beautiful shows a new city hall, new parks, and a mantra-like sense of civic spirit made more upsetting by its present, palpable lack. (Through April 15 at the Oakland Main Library, 125 14th St., 2nd floor; OaklandLibrary.org or 510-238-3134.)

Claim the World of Art as Our Domain — Lessons on home infiltration, social skills, and the death of fun punctuate this powerful juried show at Oakland’s ProArts gallery. Photographer Morgan Konn breaks into houses, puts on the residents’ clothes, then takes broody portraits of herself posing in their space. Meanwhile, Shannon Wright’s clean line drawings of wearable machines look absurdly implausible except for the autistic precision that goes into the drafts. Behind her work, CCA student Scotty Enderle’s black disco ball rotates on the floor like a dark, collapsed star; a perfect metaphor for New Year malaise. (Through Feb. 26 at 550 2nd St., Oakland; ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361.)

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.)

Yes — UC Berkeley’s Center for South Asian Studies gets some much needed light this week from Manjula Padmanabhan, a playwright, comic artist, and scholar who presents 32 delightful, evocative, and highly original woodcuts relating to Harvest, her recent play at Cal. The play deals with the traffic in human organs in India, and judging by this art, she can’t shake an obsession with the cutting and pasting of biology. Her eye for form, pattern and color brighten up a little known space in the darkest, nook of Stephens Hall. (Through February 7 at the Center for South Asian Studies, 10 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley; IAS.berkeley.edu/southasia or 510-642-3608.)

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