Category Archives: First Fridays!

“Art Sucks. I Quit.”

This is the title of artist Lily Black’s current show, on display at Kuhl Frames through March 26th.

This was our first (and favorite) stop of last Friday night’s Art Murmur, despite hitting several other galleries later in the evening.

Lily Black, repurposed erotic toys, japanese erotic toys

For starters, this show actually opened in February, so the typical crowds accompanying a First Friday opening were not swarming the space. It actually allowed us to spend time with these small and incredibly detailed works of art, and also chat at length with the artist himself.

Surprised that Lily is a “him”? I was too. But that’s just one of seemingly many quirks that makes this artist, and his work, particularly interesting.

For starters, how about creating an art show around the premise that “Art is over”? He goes on to say that “photography is dead” as well, which I sometimes struggle with myself… ah, it’s all been done before, countless times, hasn’t it? And yet, in this exhibit, Black presents us with something fresh, intriguing, and at times, hilarious.

Take for example the pairing of a scrawled note-to-self-list Black found on an AC Transit bus, with a historical photograph of the first steam engine installed in the engine compartment of an AC transit bus. We see in the photograph the number 666 stamped above the engine compartment. The stranger’s list is scrawled on a piece of Catholic Church stationary (an envelope to be precise) and includes such items as:

  • No sex for 530 days Mondays
  • No fighting outside at all with the police
  • Don’t make things
  • No weed to smoke outside or indoors
  • Take children to zoo, not to church, ok
  • Take teenagers to the show, not church
  • Don’t make bikes to sell

And the list goes on… The threads that tie these pieces together are tenuous.  And yet, it makes sense when presented together in gorgeous framing that Kuhl Frames has provided (more on this later). In fact, Black states that the “presentation” of the photographs he’s incorporated, “is the whole of their presence as art objects.  The onus is on the viewer to bring meaning.”  And isn’t this what good art asks of us?

assemblage art, Lily Black, Kuhl Frames, Art Sucks I Quit

The show was a collection of these types of assemblage art (pairings of photographs, historical artifacts, bugs, toys, etc mounted in shadow boxes) and smaller sculptural creations (“re-presented” modified toys, such as the erotic figurines at top, or the “Storytime” tableau below).

What you don’t see in my photo of this seemingly innocent storybook scene, is that Papa Bear and Baby Bear are looking at porn… two large breasts (human, to be specific) fill the pages of their book.

Lily Black, Kuhl Frames, Art sucks I quit

The erotic figurines at top and the robotic figure below are classic Black… reimagined, reconfigured, and repurposed toys with such an acute attention to detail, you’d be hard-pressed to envision these in any previous incarnation.

Take a look at the shoulder shields on this character below… they’re actually Lee Press-on Nails. Talk about creative reuse! The entire piece is finished with a hand painted patina of aging that looks unbelievably realistic. And this is what Black is known for… “His attention to detail, use of random materials, and his thought-provoking messages.” (

Lily Black, custom figurines, "Art Sucks. I Quit"
After we left the gallery, Tim said, “Why didn’t you take any pictures? You should have interviewed him for the blog! etc.” I guess I was feeling shy or something, or perhaps was just so engrossed in the show and discussion that documenting it all became secondary.

In any case, I went back the next day to take photos (while dropping off several pieces to be framed). And thankfully, someone else has already taken the time to produce a wonderfully humorous and insightful interview with Black… Who is Lily Black? (1:AM SF)

The show is only up for two more weeks – go check it out!

More on Kuhl Frames tomorrow…

And more reading:

Let’s Get Small by DeWitt Cheng (East Bay Express)

Temescal Winter Art Hop Recap…

So we had a blast at the 1st Annual Temescal Winter Art Hop last Friday night… I thought it was just going to be a smaller offshoot of Art Murmur, but there was more to it than that.  The idea was to pick up a “passport” listing all of the participating establishments – galleries, eateries, retail shops, etc. – get a stamp at each one visited to fill your passport book, and then drop off the completed book for a chance to win cool prizes!

I know, I know… it sounds a little dorky.  But we embraced our dorkdom and had a great time doing it.  And I have to say, it really was a clever way to introduce newer/smaller establishments that haven’t been on my radar, because we had to fill that book!

We pretty much hit them all… we needed 10 stamps for the book to qualify for the prize drawing and I think we each got 13!  We were going for bonus points, and it looks like it paid off because I got an email yesterday saying I’d won the prize from Smokey’s Tangle, which fittingly enough, is where our evening began.

Temescal Art Galleries, temescal winter art hop

Smokey’s Tangle

So this little gallery has been around for awhile, opening in February of 2009, but somehow I had yet to step inside their door until last Friday. I was surprised at the tiny size of their space as I’d been hearing about the gallery for some time. We walked past the striking sculpture in the display window (Andrew Dilberger) to be greeted a photographer standing on top of a table in front of a small holiday photo booth strung with clip lamps and xmas lights.  Do you want to have your picture taken? Hell yes!  So we donned some twinkle lights and spun them round for the slow exposure, and although I think we look pretty dorky, that seems about right.

If you click on the photo, it will take you to the whole series on their Facebook page.


Next door is a similarly sized tiny gallery space.  It looks like these guys have been around just as long, though again, this was my first visit.  They had a psychedelic display in the window by Raymie Iadevaia… all wallpapered flowers, funky mirrors, and more.  See their blog (click link above) for the artist’s statement.  Inside was a small show of a handful of artists, each exhibiting no more than a few pieces… some great stuff, and one in particular I loved was a graphite drawing by Kara Joslyn.

Slate art & design gallery

Now this gallery has been on my radar for a while and I’ve been meaning to check it out for months… They too opened in 2009 and seem to be a bit, um how do I say this? maybe more upscale and um… well-financed? than their funkier counterparts across the street.  The space is larger with a lovely bank of floor to ceiling windows… very clean and contemporary and seems just about the perfect size for a substantial solo show, which is what we saw Friday night.

slate art & design, carol inez charney

The current exhibit, through January 29th, features big bold beautiful photographs by Carol Inez Charney. I love this stuff… colorful abstracts seen through and in the reflections of dripping and sheeting water. In fact, I have a whole series of images very similar to this, although I have to say that mine are not this good. Waah. You can see the Slate displayed series here.

Let’s see… what else?

We went to the Creative Reuse Center, which I’ve already written about here, but it sure looked pretty spruced up a bit for the holidays.

Then we followed the sidewalk chalk directions down and around the block to the Oakland Under 100 show at the Temescal Art Center.  To be honest, I didn’t even know there was an art center in Temescal (other than Studio One), so this was a great find.  Sounds like they specialize more in performance art than visual art, offering various physical/expression classes and workshops.  Interesting.

Oakland Under 100, temescal winter art hop

We had to go back to the car to drop the Wonderarium we purchased at Under 100.  What is a Wonderarium? you ask.  Well, it’s basically a terrarium in a glass ball.  The one we bought was a tiny scale model of a much much larger one proposed to be installed as a floating art/science exhibit on Lake Merritt.  You can read all about it here:  3,000-pound “wonderarium” could float on Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

On the way to the car we passed the new cafe… Good Bellies. It looks great, and having been open just under a month, they’ve already got 5 stars on Yelp!  They offer locally roasted coffee, locally produced gelato & frozen yogurt, pastries, and assorted sandwiches.  They also had a really interesting photography exhibit curated from 1970’s photographs obtained from the Library of Congress. Very cool.

Hmmm… are you still with me?  Just a bit more, as I’m running out of steam myself here, but I can’t wrap this up without mentioning the awesome little shop Lot 49. Talk about curating… The shop features furniture, art, and objects with, as they say, “a funky edge of cool.”  And it’s so true.  Right now they have a great display of vintage cameras that I was immediately drawn too. Some sweet mid-century lounge chairs also caught our eyes… and the prices all seemed really reasonable.  Do check them out!

First Friday – Oakland’s “Great Wall”

This just in from Oaksterdam…

Some of America’s top graffiti artists, sponsored by Montana Paint, will be painting a mural on Oakland’s “Great Wall” (next door to Luka’s) today from 4:30-7:00pm as part of Oakland’s First Friday celebration.

This event is in conjunction with a slideshow presentation on “graffiti versus street art” that premieres tonight at Oaksterdam (1600 Broadway at 7pm, $10 donation) and the Fourth Annual Estria Graffiti Battle taking place this Sunday in DeFremery Park (1651 Adeline Street from 11am to 5pm, free) in West Oakland.

photo courtesy chor boogie

photo courtesy bam

Dance Battle at the DJ Stage…

“You’ve got 30 seconds… 30 seconds… show us what you got!”

That was the intro as each dancer took to the stage for the Dance Battle at the East Bay Express’ party Friday night, and the stuff these guys (and gals) could show in just half a minute was pretty mind-blowing.

The 2-on-2 “all styles” battle was hosted by YAKFilms and thePEOPLE and included an incredibly diverse group of dancers from the local area and beyond.  I don’t even know what all these terms technically mean, but the styles included Breaking, Popping, Locking, House, and Turf, and it was easy to tell the difference once the beats were pumping and the dancers were gliding, spinning, folding, and flying across the dance floor.

The two emcee’s for the night were Kash Gaines and Yoram Savion from YAKFilms, who explained the rules, monitored the timing, and corralled the dancers to their respective places after each round of judging.

This first video is from the beginning of the event.  One of the first teams to compete (Circle of Fire from Seattle) was the team that… spoiler alert… won the whole event hands down. You can see their first three challenges of the evening here, all of which they won, moving them quickly to the semi-final round, which meant we did not get to see them again until much much later.  They were amazing.

This next video shows another 3 challenges and you can really see the range of dancing styles here… Some are classic breakers, spinning on the floor and exhibiting pretty incredible feats of strength and balance. Some dancers glided across the floor moon-walk style and used toe-techniques that looked like ballet. Some worked as teams pantomiming funny scenes, and there was a particular style that seemed to involve lots of folding of ones arms and hands (forgive me… I’m clueless!) A lot of freestyling tied it all together…

This last video is of the final championship round in which the four finalist teams all competed against each other.  With four teams on the floor instead of two, the teams were positioned at each corner of the floor which made for some tough camera work from where I was sitting (you’ll see what I mean) but you can still see a lot of the final round of dancing.  Each team gets two turns.  First up was Turf Feinz, then Circle of Fire, I missed the name of the third team (sorry), and last up was the UC Berkeley Breakers…

Lastly, I love that the whole thing took place under a bank of American flags, because really… what’s more American than dancing your heart out to the king of funk, Mr. James Brown???  Thanks to all who put together this awesome event, most especially the dancers.

Weekend Fun!

Man, it feels like summer is here… and as you can imagine, there are a whole host of ways to kick off it off right!

I’m taking a break from the bookstore series (but more coming soon) to highlight just a few of the incredible options going on this weekend…

  • ART MURMUR tonight (5pm onward) Free
    Not much to say here other than “do it”. It’s really fun as you can see from my post last month… (Art Murmur is FUN)
  • OPEN STUDIOS (Saturday & Sunday 11am – 6pm) Free
    East Bay Open Studios will be taking place over the next two weekends. This is your opportunity to, not only check out & hopefully buy some amazing art produced by local artists, but also meet the artists in person, tour their workspaces (which I always find fascinating), and enjoy some snacks while you’re at it. Get your maps/directory at the link above (download) or in this week’s East Bay express, and have fun exploring & discovering…
  • BLUEGRASS FOR THE GREENBELT (Saturday 11am – 6pm) $40 – $45
    This is a fundraiser for the Greenbelt Alliance (local advocates for “open spaces & vibrant places”) also sponsored by the Hellman Family Foundation, which I assume is related to Warren Hellman, producer-extraordinaire of San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. This event is not free like HSB, but it’s for a good cause, and appropriately located on the beautiful rolling lawns of Oakland’s Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate – a 37-room Neoclassical Revival mansion built in 1899 on 50 acres of urban park land.
  • TOWN FUNK BLOCK PARTY, 19th St. @ Park Blvd. (Saturday 12pm – 5pm) Free
    My friend Desi’s organization Community Rejuvenation Project has orchestrated this BBQ/party in conjunction with local neighborhood businesses and organizations to celebrate arts & community.  Featuring tons of live music including a Michael Jackson tribute by DJ Zeph, free food, the unveiling of four new murals, and more.  Should be a blast!
  • MUSIC IN THE GARDENS, Lake Merritt (Sunday 11am – 4pm) Free
    “Stroll through the beautiful Lake Merritt-adjacent gardens and encounter diverse musical ensembles, from vintage blues to klezmer, classics to classical, Japanese flute to Renaissance recorder, and the Pacific Boychoir. This event will include gardening demonstrations, children’s activities, and tasty food.” I visited the gardens recently on a spin around the lake and they are gorgeous and fully in bloom.  If you haven’t visited recently, I highly recommend it!
  • TEMESCAL STREET FAIR, Telegraph between 45th & 51st (Sunday 12pm – 6pm) Free
    Featuring two stages of live music & performances, “foodie row” with samples of the amazing culinary wizardry available in this new gourmet district, craft & art booths, fashion shows, a Green Zone with info about greening your home, and much much more.

I’m sure there’s more going on as well, but these are the things I’ve got on my radar.  Wish I could do ’em all!

Have a great weekend everybody!

ps – I didn’t have a photo for today, so I’m posting this cute kitty I met recently… (too cute!)

Refashioned at Oakopolis ~ one final day!

Another quickie today…

I’ve written about the Oakopolis Creativity Center (aka Oakopolis Gallery) before (Moon Over Oakopolis), but we saw a really sweet exhibit there on Friday night titled “Re-Fashioned: The Origins of Our Clothing.”

Tomorrow’s the last day you can see this exhibit, gallery is open from 2 – 5 Saturday (show closes at 5pm), so if you’re interested in local Oaktown clothing designers, sustainable couture, or fashion in general, now’s your chance.

Re-Fashioned explores the art of sustainably produced clothing through the display of handmade garments, photos and video. The show illuminates the origins of the textiles, dyes, and processes employed by four local clothing designers, and a wonderful Australian designer.

A hallway leads back to the gallery space… a wall of naturally dyed garments introduces various combinations of fabrics and materials, and the resulting hues and textures created.  I heard one visitor exclaim “This one’s dyed with urine!”

re-fashioned at Oakopolis, sustainably produced clothing

Incredible one of a kind pieces are displayed, along with small keys to the materials utilized in the production (flowers, nuts, berries, etc)…

oakopolis, oakopolis gallery, oakopolis creativity center

Ocelot by Angelina DeAntonis, Permacouture by Sasha Duerr, The Moon by Cassidy Hope Wright & Cory Gunter Brown, Watermarks by India Flint


sustainable clothing, local couture, oakland clothing designers

Street Art ~ Modern Folk Art

Hey all… it’s a busy busy week.  Sorry no post yesterday, and today’s going to be a quickie!

I’ve got a few more  gallery stops to share from our Murmuring last Friday, but you’ll have to check back for those…

For now, a wheat paste we spotted on Broadway… a collaborative effort by four local street artists:  GATS, Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, and I’m not sure about the last guy… he does a lot of stickers proclaiming “Beer is Good”, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

ras terms, dead eyes, gats, graffiti against the system, broke

A couple of these guys’ works (and those by several more) will appear in a group show this Friday night at Basement Gallery, 7 – 10pm. 

Curated by local graffiti afficionado Endless Canvas, Deep Rooted Scribes is billed as “a look at modern cultural folk art.” Should be pretty cool…

Basement Gallery
1027 3rd Street
Oakland, CA 94607

courtesy of Ojos sin Vida's Flickr photostream