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More Dimond Love

April 18, 2014

Forgive the focus on my immediate neighborhood these past few posts… I haven’t gotten out much lately! But this collaborative mosaic and paint mural is a stunner and well worth highlighting.

It’s another installment by the folks who brought us the lovely mural on the side of Farmer Joes on Fruitvale Ave. Created by local artist and teacher Debra Koppman, the mural is titled “I LOVE Dimond.” It features a tapestry of images woven together across three panels to portray the diverse and beautiful neighborhood that is the Dimond District. Left and right are elaborate mosaics installed by Martha Trujillo, Brad Holland, and Shardee Thomas, while the center panel features an intricate painting by Mandy Lockwood.

Wonder what this stretch of Mac Arthur used to look like? See further below…

Debbie Koppman, PGE Substation Mural

dimond district mural, mac arthur mural, mandy lockwood

debbie koppman, mosaic mural, mac arthur mural

I couldn’t find a shot of the whole wall pre-mural, but you can imagine from the snippet of dilapidated fence below. I love how you can still see the PG&E substation info in relief within the new mural.

PG&E substation

The project was funded through multiple sources:

  • Oakland Cultural Funding Program – supporting Oakland-based art and cultural activities that reflect the diversity of the city for citizens of and visitors to Oakland. (more on this below)
  • Dimond Night Out (Montclair Lions Club – Howard Neal)
  • Oakland Parks & Recreation (Karen Long)
  • Individual Donors – Edward Norton, Carrie Campbell, Kathleen Russell, John Olson
  • Dimond Improvement Association (DIA) – working on issues and projects ranging from streetscape improvements, business development and crime reduction to beautification and community celebrations.

I’d like to take this opportunity to briefly highlight the Oakland Cultural Funding Program, because it’s nearly that time of year again when they open the applications to their grant funding process. They provide support in three categories: general support to arts & cultural organizations, individual artist projects, and art in the schools.

I’m going to focus on the individual artists (others can visit the link above for more info). Do you have a community art project you’ve always dreamed of executing but couldn’t figure out how to fund? Well here’s a chance to secure some cold hard cash to help make your dream a reality. The individual artist grants max out at $5000 and do have a few requirements to qualify:

  • You must be a resident of Oakland.
  • You can’t have received one of these grants within the past two years.
  • Your project must take place in Oakland and should culminate in a local public outcome for the benefit of the community. Such activities may include, but are not limited to, performances of dance, music or theater, visual art and public art projects, classes and workshops, exhibitions, and literary activities.

It says on their website that the applications should open on April 1st, but I confirmed yesterday that they are not expected until May 1st. The deadline will likely be June 30th, but both dates are still tentative at this time.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can sign up for email notification regarding applications, review grant guidelines and recipients from last year, and see answers to frequently asked questions all here:  Oakland Cultural Funding Program.

Love Oakland – Make Art!

“Premonitions” at The Naming Gallery by Ruth Crossman

April 11, 2014

Hey Everyone… I am so please to present this guest post, written by Ruth Crossman, who’s generously offered to share her wonderful in-depth profile of The Naming Gallery, another fantastic addition to Oakland’s ever-expanding collection of galleries and art spaces.

A West Berkeley native, Ruth is an ESL teacher by day, a writer by night, and an avid consumer of local art and music. She currently lives in North Oakland.

Please enjoy her lovely piece about this very cool space (I can’t wait to visit in person)…

* * * * * * * * *

On a Thursday night at The Naming Gallery, sitting on the ground surrounded by his paintings, Alan Grizzell describes his artwork as a meditation on “the neglected areas of the city…places that may otherwise be ignored.” Constructed using salvaged material, his series of urban landscapes are snapshots of forgotten places. He explains in his artist’s statement, “Each painting strives to portray an elegance in decay.”

One of his most striking pieces is an image any BART commuter can conjure from memory: the oil cranes and shipping containers of West Oakland at night. But there is something about this oil-on-wood painting, executed with bold brushwork and dramatic plays on light, that imbues the landscape with a haunting, solemn beauty.

Premonitions, The Naming Gallery

A native of Cincinnati, Grizzell found inspiration on a cross-country road trip to California, and his current work is an exploration of Oakland in the late night hours, “seeking a quiet beauty when most have gone to sleep.” Working out of Faultline Artspace in East Oakland, this will be his sixth exhibit in the Bay Area, following stints at The Rare Bird, The 25th Street Collective, Awaken Café, and The Compound Gallery. Bird, The 25th Street Collective, Awaken Cafe and The Compound Gallery.

His artistic aesthetic fits in well with the space he has chosen for his next show.

If you turn your back on Uptown Oakland and walk down 15th street towards Harrison, you notice that the neighborhood quickly takes on a quieter, more lived-in feel. South of the Art Murmur crawl and east of the glitzy Fox Theater, the lights become dimmer. The buildings are a mix of vacant storefronts with ‘for rent’ signs and struggling local businesses: a small grocery store, a barbershop, a public notary. And yet art is beginning to flower in this semi-forgotten section of Downtown Oakland and one of the most prolific emerging spaces is the Naming Gallery.

On the bottom floor of the White Building, a 3-story art deco, it consists of two tiny rooms at street level, with a basement and a rickety loft space upstairs. There is no sign on the door, but at 9 pm it crackles with energy: something is definitely happening here.

Biggie Smalls plays in the background, punctuated by the sound of a buzz saw. In the back room, founder Lisa Aurora Calderon sits on a floral couch picking at a plate of quiche with the gallery dog lying at her feet, staring up at her balefully. Next door, co-owner and curator Josef Lucas, back from a mission to acquire a stud finder, surveys the space and consults with Grizzell while a band of friends and associates cut beams and construct wall mounts.

The burgeoning gallery has begun to develop a reputation for being open to experimentation and willing to host a variety of events, from artwork to live music performances to craft nights. The website proclaims it “an interdisciplinary art space that provides a platform for selected artists to showcase their work.”

It was the need for such a platform which drew the interest of Lucas, a cinematographer and video blogger who is known for running the “This Party Blows” camper installation at Art Murmur. “I knew about the space and it seemed like an opportune time to get involved,” he explains. “In September my friend [local artist Zachary Seth Greer] was trying to do a show and then it fell through and I wanted to help him out. It was all very last minute.”

The exhibit Lucas helped organize would be the first at the gallery and would kick-start a wave of performances and installations, almost always featuring a rollicking opening day party with live music from local bands.

The Naming GalleryIt is this sense of cross-pollination, of multiple media forms co-existing and highlighting each other, that seems to drive Calderon: “What I see for [this] space is small artisans doing quality things coming together in one house to provide for a neighborhood… a business community under one roof…. and I think that’s beginning to take shape.”

Her own story is marked by the collective and the communal: a native of Oakland, she lost her job during the recession of 2008 and began making hats and selling them at the underground flea market known as Indie Mart. It was here she started to dialogue with other local artists and craftspeople.

She would later become a curator for Mama Buzz, before opening her own space, Upstream Art Lit, on 27th and MLK, which put her on the path towards founding the Naming Gallery. “We did a lot of fun things, we’d have writers come and stay, they’d read poetry and cook dinner. I got linked in with Rowan Morrison Gallery…” It was the folks from RWG who helped her establish many of the connections she was seeking to more deeply engage with the community.

By the summer of 2012, she’d been looking for a space for a year when she discovered 335 15th street, a few doors down from the studio of painter Githinji Omiiroo, who has had a presence there for the past fifteen years and with whom she has since developed a highly synergistic relationship.

Calderon was immediately drawn to the accessibility and ethos of the area: “I liked playing on the delineation of Art Murmur and the downtown art association. Their reach ends at a certain point, but where it ends is where our community begins.”

As midnight approaches and the rest of the block sleeps, the Naming Gallery’s community is still out in full force, working feverishly to a soundtrack of sawing and hammering, determined to have everything done before morning. The building is literally buzzing with activity.

The Naming Gallery is located at 335 15th Street in Oakland and is open from 12 pm to 6 pm Thursday through Saturday.

Alan Grizzell’s exhibit “Premonitions” opens this Saturday April 12th and runs until May 4th.
The official Opening Party is slated for the following Saturday, April 19th, to coincide with the Oakland Drops Beats block party and music festival.

Ernest Doty in the Dimond

April 9, 2014

I’ve been a bit lax in posting this past week or so… I came down with a nasty cold/flu which has kept me moving at the pace of a three-toed sloth. Actually slower.

But the universe has an interesting way of providing when we need it most, and as a result, I’m excited to tell you that I’ve got a guest post coming up later this week. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a continuation of the focus on a cool multi-artist installation site in my local hood, with the foreground image below by street artist Ernest Doty. I’ve actually featured his work on this site before without realizing it (see Art Murmur is cool. And it’s tonight. which I now know includes one of his multi-eyed creatures, another regular theme in his work.)

I love this piece for its focus on the bird, more specifically a raven (at least that’s what it looks like to me).

The Bird

I recently completed a small body of photographic artworks that, while focused on various themes and settings, all had one feature in common: birds. In the process of developing this body I did a bit of research for an accompanying essay and discovered that throughout history, images of birds have been used to symbolize the link between the spiritual realm and the physical world.

A Raven

Just last week I read a short creative nonfiction work called The Raven by Barry Lopez. It’s an allegorical meditation on the differences between crows and ravens, but really its meaning is much deeper, exploring issues frequented in his works: the relationship of human culture to the physical landscape, identity, ethics, etc. Here is a short excerpt:

Finally there is this: one morning four ravens sat at the edge of the desert waiting for the sun to rise. They had been there all night and the dew was like beads of quicksilver on their wings. Their eyes were closed and they were as still as the cracks in the desert floor.

The wind came off the snow-capped peaks to the north and ruffled their breath feathers. Their talons arched in the white earth and they smoothed their wings with sleep, dark bills. At first light their bodies swelled and their eyes flashed purple. When the dew dried on their wings they lifted off from the desert floor and flew away in four directions. Crows would never have had the patience for this.

You can look up the PDF if you want to read the full piece (it’s quite short at just three pages). I found its beauty echoed in the imagery of this mural.

Ernest Doty, Dimond Murals, Bird Murals, Ernest Doty Mural, MacArthur Murals, Dimond Murals

Many of Doty’s works incorporate bird imagery (see another below, from West Oakland) and since his Facebook profile describes him as “a mystic”, I have to believe he’s got some similar intent at work with this symbolism. Very cool.

bird mural, ernest doty, bird graffiti

Photo by Graff Hunter

Oakland Treehouse by Griffin One

March 28, 2014

There’s been a hubbub of art activity in my Dimond neighborhood in the past few months… new murals and mosaics popping up along our little stretch of MacArthur. This was one of the early installments.

It went in late last year and I simply love it–love how the large canvas of this building is used as a portal to transport us from the urban “hectivity” of this busy boulevard to the peaceful pastoral delight of northern California farmland surrounded by gentle foothills.

Mural is by Griffin One, Oakland-based muralist, fine artist, illustrator and digital designer.
dimond district, dimond murals, macarthur murals, griffinone, griffin one

Housekeeping: Where have all the bloggers gone?

March 26, 2014

the-computer-demands-a-blog

Since restarting my blog last month I’ve decided to slowly chip away at some housekeeping on the site and will post about this from time to time to see if you folks can help me make some improvements. Please. Help me!

My first order of business was to take a quick stroll through my blogroll and see what my fellow Oakland bloggers have been up to. I was surprised to see how many of the blogs I previously perused have gone quiet.

And then again, I wasn’t so surprised. Because this whole blogging thing takes a lot of time and if you’re not getting paid to do it, it’s amazing how quickly other priorities (kids, work, school, etc.) can take over.

I’m eager to find new favorites to add to this list. So tell me… what Oakland blogs do YOU peruse? Please send my way!

Below is a list of my old blogroll with the status of each. To those that have passed on… I thank you for your service and wish you well in your current endeavors.

  • 38th Notes – full media website
  • A Better Oakland – officially closed November 2011
  • Back to Oakland  – last post April 2013
  • City Homestead – proclaimed “dead”, last post March 2013
  • Fragmentary Evidence  – last post October 2013
  • Living in the O – on extended hiatus, last post April 2013
  • Myrtle Street Review – last post December 2011
  • O-Scene – defunct
  • Oakland Daily Photo – still going strong! kudos.
  • Oakland Geology – still going strong! kudos.
  • Oakland Grown – blog converted to website
  • Oakland Local - full news website
  • Oakland North – full news website (UC Berkeley)
  • Oakland Space Academy – last post March 2012
  • Oakland Swee(t)Art – last post April 2013
  • Oakland’s Own – going strong. kudos.
  • Only in Oakland – last post June 2011
  • Our Oakland – going strong. Gene is a machine!
  • Scenes from Oakland – last post July 2013
  • Sweet Oakland – blog officially closed July 2013
  • the DTO – last post July 2012
  • Today In Montclair – last post June 2012
  • Walk Oakland Bike Oakland – full organizational website
  • We Fight Blight – last post March 2011

I’ve updated the blogroll to show the ones that are now solely archives, but eventually I’d love to have a list of all active thriving blogs about Oakland. I’m assuming some are out there, but maybe everyone’s just too busy facebooking,tweeting, and instagramming.

If you have some favorites about anything Oakland related, please send my way. Thanks!

Aggregate Space Gallery: Featherboard Writing Series Reading & Reception – This Saturday 5pm

March 21, 2014

The second stop on our brief Art Murmur Friday night a couple weeks ago was another West Oakland spot called Aggregate Space Gallery. Though our visit was relatively short, this blogpost is not. I was so excited about this space I needed to know more, and so do you! So here goes…

At first we were enticed by the current Solo Video Show. I thought, video? Not many of the galleries feature video work and I learned in my “prep” for the show that Aggregate Space is particularly well suited because they’ve built a full-fledged screening room. Then I thought, solo? Even when video works are incorporated into galleries, it’s rare to see a solo show where an artist has the quantity and breadth of work to take over an entire space. Or rather, it’s rare to see a gallery allow an artist to do so because, let’s be honest, most galleries are in the business of selling art, and it’s a lot easier to sell a painting than a piece of video art.

But this is just one of the things that makes Aggregate Space Gallery unique. What’s commercially viable doesn’t really interest them. What does, is genre-bending, experimental, boundary-pushing work that has little hope of being seen in more conventional galleries. And this is exactly the type of work they’ve been featuring for over two years now.

I know this because I went back to meet them again last weekend to talk a bit more about how the space came to be, what they’re hoping to accomplish, and what the future holds. And they were kind enough not only to spend a great deal of time touring me through the space, answering all my questions and introducing me to fellow involved-artists, but they also loaded my arms with Chapbooks from their Writing Series (more on this later) and a beautiful soft-cover book commemorating their two-year anniversary show “Not Each, But All.(great write-up of show here)

The title of that show, as well as the title of the gallery itself (aggregate is such a great word: adjective, noun, and verb!) is truly indicative of the collaborative art space its founders, Conrad M. Meyers II and S.D. Willis, have created. The empty warehouse they secured in 2010 was transformed into the stunning multi-functional space it is today by the dedicated work of fellow artists, friends and family, each with a unique set of skills perfectly suited to complement each others’, thereby forming the “aggregate.” I won’t go into the full history here as that’s already been covered in an in-depth interview with Meyers and Willis, which includes photos that beautifully portray the extent of the transformation. Check it out… In Conversation with Aggregate Space (SFAQ).

What I do want to share about is the video show we enjoyed during our first visit (Broadcast Standards by Doug Garth Williams), and its final run this weekend when it will be accompanied by the next installment of Aggregate Space’s Featherboard Writing Series. This I find fascinating and completely unique… they’ve created a format that integrates cutting-edge literature with cutting-edge art in a “cross-genre partnership”. Very cool.

Broadcast Standards

So first the video show… “Doug Garth Williams is a filmmaker and video artist who specializes in creating imagery that is both bizarre and self aware.” His installation at Aggregate features nine short films, all looped for continuous screening. The first to greet you is Black Bars, a clever and funny portrayal of self-censorship that, along with the show’s title, sets some expectations for the viewer before fully entering the main space.

Next in line are the Average series of films, six altogether. Each is composed of layers upon layers of found footage relating to the topic at hand, i.e. Average Car Chase, Average Sitcoms, Average Cats, etc. Through what I can only imagine must be a painstaking editing process Williams weaves together the images by dialing up or down the opacity of each layer to reveal different narrative moments in time. I found these completely mesmerizing and stood transfixed as the beautiful montages morphed before me. Apparently, these were equally inspiring to Aggregate’s current writer-in-residence, Kari Marboe, who’ll be featured in this month’s Featherboard Writing Series, but more on that in a bit…

aggregate-space2

As you continue into the gallery you come to the 3-channel piece Videos for Humans. Though more straightforward than his abstract montage works, I found these videos equally mysterious, but in a completely different way. They’re character driven, featuring a hot Asian woman, an ugly alien man, and some really cute little bunnies. I can’t tell you what it all means, but it’s compelling nonetheless.

aggregate-space1

Finally you pass through a small door into the screening room to see the delightful Wait for It. I actually shot a video of this video to share here, but then thought against it. You should really just go to Aggregate Space Gallery yourself so you can see all of these films in their proper venue–to feel yourself in the space in which these works were spatially placed with such careful intention. But if you want a bit of a teaser in the meantime, they’ve posted a quick walk-through on Facebook.

Featherboard Writing Series

Ok, so the Featherboard Writing Series was started by their friend and fellow artist Steffi Drewes with the idea of promoting a “one-of-a-kind-dialogue” between artists and writers as they share their work with each other. It all began with a poetry reading by Drewes at Diesel Bookstore in Rockridge (note: I wrote about Diesel ages ago here, and one of the things I highlighted was their amazing author events).

This was in the early days of Aggregate Space (December 2011) as they were gearing up to launch only their second show, titled Ostranenie, a multimedia show featuring film, sound, and video artists. Aggregate Space asked Drewes if she’d be willing to curate a poetry reading to coincide with the closing reception of the show. She did, gathering two other writers in addition to herself to perform readings, and the event was somewhat surprisingly a big hit. (This is the kind of risk taking that makes this gallery so cool.)

Meyers said an unexpected benefit of this collaboration was the expansion of their artistic community. By bringing in the literary crowd to join the art crowd, there was a sudden growth and cross-pollination that hadn’t existed before. And hence, the Featherboard Writing Series was born, pairing a literary event with the closing reception of each art show.

Added more recently in 2013 were the Writer-In-Residence Program and Chapbook Series extensions, which further enhance the dialogue between artists and writers. A Writer-In-Residence is selected for each show installed at Aggregate, for the duration of the show, 4-6 weeks usually. The writer is provided keys to access the gallery as needed, utilizing an office space upstairs, but also having unlimited access to the installed artworks themselves. The idea is that the writer’s work will then be influenced by the content of the installation artist’s work.

In addition to reading at the closing reception of the show along with two other selected writers, each Writer-In-Residence gets to produce a limited edition chapbook to be distributed at the event. Now I wasn’t familiar with this term and actually had to look it up, so for those who don’t know… “chapbook” is a term now used for small publications, typically of poetry. But its roots date to centuries ago when the ability to print books first became widely accessible (more history here).

These small books are bound at Aggregate Space and, though consistent in their 8.5″ x 5.5″ softcover format, are truly blank canvases for each writer to “paint” freely. Some choose to incorporate imagery (photos or sketches), some work in prose, or dialogue, and others stick to poetry. All are created with editorial assistance from program manager Steffi Drewes.

chapbook

The Writer-In-Residence for the Broadcast Standards show is Kari Marboe. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with her a bit about her plans for this weekend’s event. She explained that she typically works in site-specific text-based installations, and opted to treat this project the same way, considering Williams’ installation of video works as her site.

She spent time in the gallery and was intrigued by the Average videos, as was I. In interviewing Williams it became clear that there was a “formula” he used in creating these pieces. It goes something like this…

  • Found Content – he worked with exclusively found video, rather than originally created content
  • Layers & Opacity – approximately 30 videos were incorporated into each work, all 30 videos simultaneously layered over each other but only revealed at times through shifts in opacity
  • Timing – each individual layer, or “story”, is revealed for somewhere between 3-5 seconds

She decided in creating her works for the Writing Series, she would apply the same formula. It’s brilliant!

She’s utilizing found texts (handwritten apology letters for example, found through Google images), and is weaving them together in a similar fashion. She wants her process to closely mirror Williams’ process so she’s spending a lot of time editing her text snippets together since she knows his montages were heavily edited.

I asked how she could address opacity with respect to text, especially since she’ll be reading the pieces aloud, and she said she’s interpreting different levels of opacity through the different emotions and intents of the original writer. Fascinating.

If this sounds fascinating to you too, get yourself to Aggregate Space Gallery this Saturday.

Aggregate Space Gallery
801 West Grand Avenue
Oakland 94607

The gallery opens at 1pm. The Featherboard Reading and Reception start at 5pm.

Transmission Gallery – “Just Look” Closing Party & Artist Talk this Saturday 3-5pm

March 14, 2014

We had a pretty quiet Murmur last Friday hitting just two galleries a bit off the beaten path, both kitty-corner from each other at West Grand Avenue at West Street in West Oakland. Westward ho!
transmission-gallery

We hit Transmission Gallery first and weren’t quite sure what to expect given the unassuming and nondescript industrial entrance, but once we entered the space it was clear the transformation Transmission embodied from its prior incarnation as an auto-repair shop (Valco Transmission Repair).

It was a quiet evening there since the opening reception for the show in place had been held back in February, but it was actually quite lovely to peruse the expansive and pristine space freely without the crowds, and we were able to spend ample time gazing upon Eva Bovenzi’s stark abstractions, which I think is what was required to appreciate their at-first-seeming-simplicity.

eva-bovenzi2

Eva Bovenzi Just Look

Her solo show, titled “Just Look” features over 50 works created with acrylic paint, Yupo paper, and canvas. At first glance you don’t even realize that there are collaged elements to these pieces, exemplary of the fact that “Bovenzi does not use collage to create disjunctions; she uses it to achieve pictorial unity,” as reviewer David M. Roth wrote. (see link at bottom)

The works reference delicate elements from nature (wings, feathers, carapaces, and such) as well as historical works of art, particularly with respect to abstractions of eye forms, which Bovenzi says “led [her] to contemplate the notion of the disembodied eye… as a stand-in for “being-ness”, the quality of simply being alive without partiality.”

eva-bovenzi

The closing reception for the show will be held tomorrow, Saturday 3/15, between 3-5pm with the artist herself giving a talk at 4pm. For those who haven’t yet seen this gallery or show, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience the gallery in all of its light-filled glory (it’s a sunny second-story space), and dialogue with the artist about her work and process.

Transmission Gallery
770 West Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
Gallery Hours: Fridays 12-6pm; Saturdays 11am-5pm

Stay tuned for highlights of the second gallery we hit… Aggregate Space. I’ll be writing about that next week.

In the meantime, here are a couple in-depth articles for those seeking more info on Transmission and Bovenzi…

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