Friends and I checked out the Art Murmur scene on Friday night… I missed the last one (it fell on New Year’s Day) so I was excited to mingle among the artists and hipsters once again. My artist friend C came from San Francisco (I love that city folks are the new “bridge and tunnel” crowd… trekking to Oakland on the weekends for edgy art and sublime dining). Unfortunately, she got hung up in traffic due to an accident on the bridge which gave me an extra hour to kill, so I met friends at MUA for a drink. Or two…
First of all, a bit of a disclaimer… I have yet to actually eat dinner at MUA, so those looking for a full dining review should just skip to the end and check some other links I’ve provided. But I have been to MUA a handful of times for drinks and/or snacks and I have to say, I just love this place. Everything about it, from the ginormous warehouse space and the way their minimalistic asian-shic decor perfectly meshes with the raw materials and scale of the larger industrial space, to the edgy urban art, the ultra-modern unisex bathrooms, and the artistry they apply to their simple but delicious food & drink preparations (and yes, I just mentioned bathrooms and food in the same sentence, but who really cares?). The whole place exudes a modern, but warm, aesthetic and the crowd inside (both staff and patrons) feels like modern-Oakland in my mind. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really one of the few spaces I’ve been in in Oakland where I really felt, for a moment, like I was in New York (or Brooklyn rather, because this is a huge space.)
And that’s one of the things that’s so impressive about MUA. They’ve been open for 2 years now and I remember thinking when the first opened, ‘Man, that’s a big space. How are they gonna keep that full consistently?” But they do, and I’m so happy to see this enterprise going strong on a mostly abandoned stretch of Broadway’s Auto Row. Granted, there are a few other things going on there… but there are also a lot of large empty car dealerships, and a couple redevelopment plans already in the works for the area. Here’s one specific plan and EIR (Environmental Impact Report) if you’re interested. It’s actually pretty fascinating reading… The redesign of a city, in progress.
But I digress. Back to MUA, which is right in the thick of the redevelopment zone on Broadway at 24th Street… I meandered upstairs to see Ross Simonini putting the finishing touches on his portion of a two-man show in the upstairs area of MUA. The next two photos are his pieces, which were collaged creations of crayon, paint, and, if I remember correctly, “sandpapered” photographs. The room was rather dimly lit, but amidst the raw textured surfaces of compressed plywood and more sophisticated asian-influenced furniture, I thought his pieces looked, well, perfect. In fact, his whimsically constructed lanky figures, who seemed to be battling or dancing – I couldn’t quite tell, reminded me of the slender figures of Indonesian shadow puppet batiques. Beautiful. Simonini is also an editor at Believer magazine and has a blog here where you can read about more of his work, and many other artistic things of interest.
William Saroyan, the other artist displaying works, is known more for his writing than his painting. His paintings were difficult to see by candlelight, and alas, I had a cold drink waiting for me at the bar downstairs, so I will have to go back to see his pieces by the light of day (the picture below does not do them justice). In the meantime, I’ll provide you an excerpt from Simonini’s recent blog post about the show…
“His vein of abstract expressionism came not from New York but from Fresno, his home, and contained an intensity of ferocious markings and firework colors, often quickly scrawled on butcher paper. As a writer, he received Pulitzer for “The Time of Your Life,” but turned it down, and was given an Oscar for his screenplay, “The Human Comedy,” but sold it to a pawnshop. Like Steinback, he wrote extensively about central California, though Saroyan was widely known for his work about San Francisco.”
Sounds interesting, eh? Go check it out… this place is cool.