What’s Happening in East Bay Art

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 Light of 100 SunsThe regal lawn below UC Berkeley’s Doe Library and underneath the Campanile hosts a veritable trophy hall of highlights from the career of late, great Berkeley physicist Robert J. Oppenheimer. Michael Light’s Light of 100 Suns traces the development of the Oppenheimer arsenal through one hundred three-by-two-foot declassified photos of nuclear blasts — coinciding with the San Francisco Opera’s world premiere of Dr Atomic. Four-mile-wide fireballs light up the Pacific Ocean while referencing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” video. Troops cower in trenches from the false apocalypse like scenes from T2. So iconic, so ingrained have these mushroom clouds and fireballs become that the generation of students viewing them on the lawn looks more intrigued than outraged. The Bomb has become a mercurial, ever-young pop star, a postmodern James Dean; this is only reinforced by the drive-in-like quality to the shots wherein rows of soldiers are sitting in deck chairs staring at the brilliant light of a new dawn. (Through October 7 in the Doe Library Foyer, UC Berkeley.)

No Place Like Home — Pop psychology says we are destined to reenact formative traumas, but Alex Munn’s take on eternal return seems a little Unreal. The former video-game designer created a first-person-shooter-style 3-D model of his childhood home and placed it inside a stand-up arcade game, where viewers can use a joystick and trackball to wander around inside his past. The point of view is only a few feet off the ground, as he was but seven when he lived in this quaint, three-story suburban home in rural Illinois. Relying on memory, photographs, and a site visit, Munn spent three months this year coding birthday cakes in the dining room and presents under the Christmas tree. You can jump on his bed, and play in the backyard. But something remains off. Munn sets the scene around midnight, and there are distinctly no people or sounds. A Resident Evil-esque foreboding emanates from these gray and green hallways, especially up the stairs to the sick room, full of IV drips and pain meds. Turns out, Munn was seven the year his mother succumbed to cancer. It was the last year home was truly Home. Though his family intends to sell the property, it will obviously continue to haunt him, and that nightmare is now rendered in Mayan graphics and running on the Unreal 2 game engine. Incredibly novel and immensely sad. Come play the pain game for the first time, over and over again. (Through October 9 at 33 Grand Gallery, Oakland; 33Grand.com)

Paint Behaving Badly — The dark, dank YWCA lounge doesn’t do justice to the colorful, playful takes on shrink-wrapped culture from Philip Donahue and Whitney Vosburgh, exhibiting through the month. The two locals present 23 abstract, sheen-enhanced color and form studies that eschew brushes for resin and giclée-sprayed messes, all lacquered and shiny like a new toy from Best Buy. Donahue’s “Hot Springs” drenches thick tactile layers of clear resin over a green and blue swirling depiction of light and shadow; the point of view is ostensibly from the bottom of a hot spring looking up. Vosburgh’s “Veiled Threat” uses polymer paint and dry-cleaner bags draped down the canvas to create the threat of gross, soapy discharge. Rivulets are frozen midfall, threatening the cleanliness of the whole room but failing to deliver. (Through October 31 at 2600 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, YWCA-Berkeley.org)

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