Category Archives: galleries

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

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…

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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.

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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

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.

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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…

Art Murmur Tonight!

It’s the first friday of March, so you know what that means… Art Murmur and First Friday are happening! Whether you’re looking to actually enjoy some art away from the crowds or get your groove on in crazy-town, there are lots of options available…

PARTY CENTRAL

Though the “murmuring” has grown over the last few years to encompass quite a few more neighborhoods than the Uptown area where it first began back in 2006, Uptown is still the heart of it all, and certainly the epicenter of First Fridays (the street festival that has developed in conjunction with Art Murmur). The festival takes place along Telegraph Avenue all the way from Grand Avenue to 27th Street and along side streets 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th. Best access is from Broadway.

In addition to all the regular fanfare (DJs, bands, food trucks, gallery exhibitions, street artists, etc.) The Great Wall of Oakland (at Grand/Broadway) has a special event tonight… “For the 3rd year in a row, a curated screening of the personal works of Pixar Animation Studio employees will be presented on the 100’x100’ urban canvas. This very unique glimpse into the creative minds of our talented Emeryville neighbors is the only public screening of it’s kind, giving Bay Area residents a rare opportunity to view the short films that Pixar employees create in their spare time when they are not working on major blockbusters.”

Great Wall of Oakland

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

For those looking for a bit of a mellower experience, fret not… you can bypass the whole crazy of Uptown and seek out adventure along a less trampled path. Here are several options highlighted on Art Murmur’s site:

Downtown & Jack London: Along Oakland’s Broadway corridor, four Oakland Art Murmur galleries are featuring new exhibitions.

  • Betti Ono kicks off International Women’s History Month with the west coast premiere of Stop Telling Women To Smile
  • ProArts opens Not of This World, a group show curated by Renny Pritikin that looks at the subtle ways in which art can change how we see the world around us
  • Joyce Gordon Gallery opens the show Exit from Anonymous, a group exhibition of seven women artists in celebration of International Women’s Month
  • Affiliated retailer Field Day presents the whimsical paintings & illustrations of Jenny Jo Kristan along with textiles from featured designer Harriette Ray and a Venetian plaster photo booth by Eddy Lilly Bouquet
  • In Jack London, lOAKal presents Double Vision, an exhibition of two distinct bodies of work (photography & paintings) by Bay Area artist Sam W. Grant

North & West Oakland:

  • In West Oakland, at the intersection of West Street and Grand Avenue, Aggregate Space Gallery presents Broadcast Standards, a solo video show by filmaker and video artist Doug Garth Williams
  • Transmission Gallery, also at West Grand & West (kitty-corner from Aggregate), presents Just Look, abstract paintings by Eva Bovenzi
  • In North Oakland, Temescal Alley’s Interface Gallery premiers Endograph, an installation by the art and architecture team smith | allen
Broadcast Standards at Aggregate Space Gallery

Broadcast Standards at Aggregate Space Gallery

Have Fun. Be Safe. And here’s a map for you intrepid adventurers. Hope to see you out there!

Oakland Art Murmur Venue Map

Freedom Songs at Studio Grand

After doing everything and anything I could to take advantage of last weekend’s gorgeous sunshine, balmy temperatures, and springtime blooms, I could have easily planted myself on the couch to rest my weary bones in front of some mindless TV. But I opted instead to hit this show–solo even, since I could find no other takers on a Sunday night–and I’m so glad I did.

Not just for the show, which was beautiful, inspiring, and quite moving. But also for the introduction to Studio Grand, a space about which I am incredibly excited. It’s the kind of place I’ve fantasized about creating for a long time… a gallery, no… a performance space, no… a community art center. Oh sweet Jesus, it’s all of the above! I can’t wait to learn more and explore some of their super-interesting upcoming offerings.

But on to Sunday’s show…
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Freedom Songs was listed in my Friday post about weekend activities to celebrate Black History Month, and is the one event I attended. It featured four local Bay Area vocalists (Valerie Troutt, Amy Lacour, Tiffany Austin, Kimiko Joy) performing selections from the traditions of gospel, spiritual, folk, and soul.

I arrived just in time for the second set which highlighted mostly contemporary works by Nina Simone, Sam Cooke (by way of Mahalia Jackson), Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Mos Def, and more. My guess is that the first half focused on more of the early gospels and folk songs, and I’m sorry to have missed this.

Each woman in turn performed a song of her choosing, perhaps giving a little history of the song and why she selected it. The set transitioned from songs of struggle during the civil rights movement (Too Slow, A Change Is Gonna Come, Someday We’ll All Be Free, and Visions), to songs of celebration (Golden, Tree of Life, and Shine A Light).

It’s hard to describe how touching these performances were. My words can’t convey the power of these women’s voices and the heart and love that they projected into the crowd. The song that really got me was right in the middle of the show, rounding out the songs of struggle with one emphasizing disappointment, yet still so full of hope.

It’s one of the less well-known songs from Stevie Wonder’s wildly popular and seminal album Innervisions, which featured such hits as Too High, Living for the City, and Higher Ground, and garnered several Grammy’s including Album of the Year.  It is considered by many to be one of his greatest and most important works, addressing such issues as “drugs, spirituality, political ethics, the unnecessary perils of urban life, and what looked to be the failure of the ’60s dream.”(wikipedia).

Visions is the mournful embodiment of this last issue, and Amy Lacour’s rendition brought tears to my eyes. Here are the lyrics for those who aren’t familiar with it…

People hand in hand
Have I lived to see the milk and honey land?
Where hate’s a dream and love forever stands
Or is this a vision in my mind?

The law was never passed
But somehow all men feel they’re truly free at last
Have we really gone this far through space and time
Or is this a vision in my mind?

I’m not one who makes believe
I know that leaves are green
They only change to brown when autumn comes around

I know just what I say
Today’s not yesterday
And all things have an ending

But what I’d like to know
Is could a place like this exist so beautiful
Or do we have to find our wings and fly away
To the vision in our mind?

The current gallery exhibit Abstracts in the Way of Being by Todd Thomas Brown, though difficult to fully appreciate at night, seemed the perfect backdrop for this show, with bold abstracts in striking reds and blacks. The vocalists were all accompanied by the incredibly soulful stylings of pianist Joe Warner. And the show culminated with a group performance including all four of these beautiful women, encouraging the crowd to sing along.

I was singing all the way to my car… in my head as I went to bed that night… and on into this week. I want to thank Studio Grand for hosting an excellent show, and to all of these courageous artists for sharing their hearts with us!

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Get Your Black History Month On…

black history month quotes

There’s just one week left. So if you haven’t yet done something to honor our black brothers and sisters of Oakland, here are a slew of diverse and interesting options to choose from this weekend…

Friday – 2/21

  • African American Heritage through Storytelling (2pm)

    Kirk Waller is a storyteller who utilizes his musicality, physicality, emotion and spoken word to convey a wide array of African and African American Folktales, Stories and Legends. Fun for the whole family.
    Oakland Public Library, Main Branch 125 14th St., Oakland 510-238-3134

  • Blackball Universe: Black Minus Afrika (7pm – 12am)

    Black Minus Afrika is an exhibition that takes a look at modern perceptions of Africa as well as contemporary notions of ‘Blackness’. The exhibit features art by Oakland-based artist Gathinji Mbire, among many others, and runs through the end of March. This reception is FREE and open to the public and will feature refreshments and music by Fantastic Negrito.
    Blackball Universe – 230 Madison St., Oakland 94607

Saturday – 2/22

  • Black History Month Walking Tour (10am – 12pm)

    FREE downtown walking tours highlighting African-American leaders who helped shape present-day Oakland. Learn how Lionel Wilson, Delilah Beasley and Marcus Foster changed the city and the Bay Area. Simply meet at AAMLO shortly before 10am to participate.
    African American Museum and Library at Oakland – 659 14th St.
    510-238-3234  www.oaklandnet.com

  • The 18th Annual Art of Living Black Exhibition (12pm – 6pm)

    Bay Area Black Artists Exhibition and Self-Guided Art Tour features emerging, mid-career and established artists of African American descent from the San Francisco Bay Area. FREE and open to the public.
    American Steel Studios: 1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakland 94607

  • Black Vines: A Toast to Black Wineries & Diverse Art (1pm – 4pm)

    The third annual celebration of art, culture, and wine, bringing together African American artists and vintners. Tickets presale $30; door $40 purchase tickets here
    Betti Ono Gallery – 1427 Broadway, Oakland 94612

    African American Heritage through Storytelling (2pm)

    Kirk Waller is a storyteller who utilizes his musicality, physicality, emotion and spoken word to convey a wide array of African and African American Folktales, Stories and Legends. Fun for the whole family.
    Oakland Public Library, Montclair Branch 1687 Mountain Blvd., Oakland 510-482-7810

  • Blackball Universe: Black Minus Afrika (7pm – 12am)

    Black Minus Afrika is an exhibition that takes a look at modern perceptions of Africa as well as contemporary notions of ‘Blackness’. The exhibit features art by Oakland-based artist Gathinji Mbire, among many others, and runs through the end of March. This reception is FREE and open to the public and will feature refreshments and music by Fantastic Negrito.
    Blackball Universe – 230 Madison St., Oakland 94607

Sunday 2/23

  • The 18th Annual Art of Living Black Exhibition (12pm – 6pm)

    Bay Area Black Artists Exhibition and Self-Guided Art Tour features emerging, mid-career and established artists of African American descent from the San Francisco Bay Area. FREE and open to the public.
    American Steel Studios: 1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakland 94607

  • Freedom Songs: Valerie Troutt, Amy Lacour, Tiffany Austin & Kimiko Joy (6:30pm – 8:30pm)

    Four Bay Area vocalists in the round featuring selections from the traditions of gospel, spiritual, folk, and soul. 6pm doors, $10-15 suggested donation
    2013 Studio Grand – 3234 Grand Avenue, Oakland 94610

Passage By Night: from stuffy silk ties to whimsical otherworldly forms

passage by night, silk tie sculpture
Passage By Night is half of the gallery show I intended to see last week. Due to an unfortunate incident of pilferage I missed the exhibit In Search of Sheba at Warehouse 416, but was able to catch the tail end of this showing at Classic Cars West, arriving just as collaborative duo Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson were wrapping up their talk, but still in time to walk amongst these fantastical creations and snap a few photos.
passage by night, silk tie sculpture
There are definitely some interesting things at play in this show. They’ve recontextualized a common everyday item representative of the “uniform” for male power and prestige into abstracted forms, collectively “reminiscent of a biological ecosystem.” An interesting tension exists between this larger ecosystem which includes “space to enter, navigate, and explore,” and the individual pieces each with “their own distinct personality and potential narratives” resulting from the very thoughtfully arranged colored, patterned, and textured ties.
passage by night, silk tie sculpture
The show is only up through February 22nd, so if you’re interested in walking amongst the weighty presence of thousands of neckties, freed from their collared confines and sculpted into these imaginative “creatures”, get yourself to Classic Cars West this Saturday from 1pm – 5pm. It’s the last available public viewing.

Classic Cars West – 411 26th Street – Oakland, CA 94612
passage by night, silk tie sculpture

TONIGHT: Art & Wine Gallery Night with Friends of OAM

Fun event tonight at two very cool uptown galleries, Classic Cars West and Warehouse 416. I’ve written about both in previous posts, which I’ll link at the bottom…

Tonight is a fundraiser and membership drive for Friends of OAM. Tickets are $15 for the individual event. Or with the purchase of an annual membership of $50, you get free admission tonight and to all other quarterly gallery nights such as this one. Your contribution is tax-deductible and supports an organization doing great work in our city.

Friends of OAM work to “support the Oakland Art Murmur in its mission to increase awareness of and participation in the visual arts in Oakland.”

Classic Cars West is hosting Passage by Night, a unique installation of work by collaborative team Isaac Amala and Liz Simpson, featuring sculptural and painterly constructions from neckties.

And Warehouse 416 presents In Search of Sheba: Black Women Artists 2014 in honor of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March). Numerous artists’ works in a variety of mediums (sculpture, painting, textile fashion, video, photography, pen & ink, and découpage) will be featured.

Hope to see you there…

FOAM-gallery-night

Historical posts: