Tag Archives: california

Compound Studios & Gallery

So our next stop on our Art Murmur crawl was just next door to blankspace, at the Compound Gallery & Studios. A much larger space, Compound is home not only to multiple gallery spaces, but 10 artist studios as well, all fully booked. The space was opened by a husband and wife artists Matt and Lena Reynoso in 2008.  You may remember Matt’s name from my very first post… the Suits & Soldiers mural on the Emeryville border.  I’m hoping to have an Artist Interview with him soon. Also his wife Lena has a fantastic website called Curator of Oddities, and she really does have an odd, but fantastic, collection of work… everything from presidential paintings, to gorgeous graphic silk-screened posters, to random expositions on American folklore.  Very cool.

Compound Studios & Gallery

The primary installation in their main gallery is an interesting 3 dimensional landscape of sculptural pieces entitled 3AM: Under the Full Moon, by Christopher Romer. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this exhibit as it was quite crowded when we arrived, but you can see a slew of pictures on Compound’s home page.  You’ll also find a wonderful write-up of the show there, which is more than you’ll get here, as I am, for all intents and purposes, sculpturally illiterate.

I felt a bit more at home in the adjacent gallery space, the Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery, also part of Compound. The exhibit there was mostly two-dimensional (more my comfort zone), entitled “The Worship of Water,” curated by Obi Kaufmann and featuring works by several artists.  Here are two pieces by Savanna Snow

The Worship of Water

And below are works of Shannon Ingraham (I think)… forgive me, but this was a quick tour as I was late to meet friends in the city for Devo. Yes, that’s right, Devo. They rocked.

oaktownart_20091110_2

One of the cool things about visiting this gallery is that many of the artists’ studios are open to the public as well. We were able to walk through many of the spaces and view creative works in progress…

Another thing this studio/gallery/artist crew does is a really cool subscription service called Art in a Box. For a very reasonable monthly fee ($30 – $50), you receive one new work of fine art each month, in a box. You can specify preferred medium if you like, or just keep it a surprise.  Either way, you’ll be enriching your personal fine art collection, while supporting local artists… over 20 currently participating.  And this service has been so successful in fact, the Compound is seeking out new artists to participate.  You can see their Call to Artists on their Facebook page. Check it out!

Blankspace – This Is Not My Beautiful Life

So last Friday was another “First Friday” here in Oakland, and friends and I did an abbreviated gallery crawl this month, hitting two of the three galleries in the Golden Gate district of OaklandDidn’t know there was a Golden Gate district in Oakland?!? It was recent news to me too, but this tiny Oakland outcropping, stretching just north and east of Emeryville and just south of Berkeley, has apparently gone by this name since the late 1800’s.  The area was originally developed as the town of Klinknerville in 1885, changed it’s name to Golden Gate in 1888 (smart move), and was annexed to Oakland in 1897 [Wikipedia].

After drinks at Kitty’s, we made our way to blankspace gallery located at 66th Street and San Pablo. The contemporary art space consists of one main gallery room with a smaller gallery shop off to the right when you first enter, filled with small-scale affordable local artists’ wares. The space was first redeveloped from an old Bait & Tackle shop (I love that the old sign still exists) and was originally launched as Lucky Tackle gallery by Jason Byers back in 2002.  He now co-directs the space with Kerri Johnson.

Blankspace Gallery

The exhibit this month (opening reception was in late October) is titled This Is Not My Beautiful Life, an interesting twist on the Talking Heads’ song “Once in a Lifetime” written by David Byrne…

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

oaktownart_20091109_2

Two artists (Michael Hall and Daniel Healey) shared the gallery, each with entirely different styles and techniques, but both focused on themes of “history, domesticity, and narrative.”

Healey’s pieces were rather large but meticulously constructed out of tiny collage bits, most originating from vintage magazines and other historical materials (though he was quite secretive about his process!) Some of the tiny elements could easily be recognized as home wares from some type of catalog, perhaps an old Sears & Roebuck… shelving, handtrucks, etc. Yet many were harder to identify, and some even had a tissue paper translucency to them that was quite beautiful when layered.

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I love this image above, because these patrons look perplexed… one literally scratching his head, trying to figure out how and out of what were these constructed, what they now represent, and most importantly, what does it mean?!

My friends debated the perspective from which to view these images. Some saw them as maps of a sort, as though viewed from the sky above…. landmasses jutting out into an abyss of some greater homogeneous body. I preferred to view them from my feet-planted-on-the-ground perspective, and to me they looked like fantastical creatures, blob-like with arms and heads and claws protruding. Here is another…

oaktownart_20091109_5

Michael Hall’s pieces also begin with vintage photographs, though his work is more interested in the historical narratives found within. His canvasses were more traditional paintings than Healey’s, but the incorporation of elements such as date stamping, square formatting, and borders, gave clues to the photographic origination of the images.

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I am sorry that I don’t have more photos of his work here… my representation is not particularly balanced as each artist occupied half the gallery space. Please note it is no indication of preference… I found the subtle palettes and quite moments of Hall’s imagery lovely, and a perfect contrast to the vibrant chaos of Healey’s.  The show is up until November 15th… you can go see for yourself.

Tomorrow we go to our second stop of the night… Compound Gallery & Studios.

Bee Aware – Connected Worlds

Save the Honeybees…

After yesterday’s visit to Ghost Town farm and Novella’s bees, I thought I’d highlight this “bee conscious” mural along the Mandela Parkway. Though this area has seen a small amount of “greening” with the redevelopment of the parkway to a greenbelt including an extension of the Bay Trail, this is predominantly a heavy industry area. I love the fact that someone here is speaking for the bees.

BEE AWARE - CONNECTED WORLDS Mural

This piece is located at the same art compound where the giant human sculptures from my post Have you heard of this thing called Burning Man? reside. You can see a sliver of one on the left side of the shot above, which gives you a sense of scale. The mural is installed on a huge piece of curved concrete that is literally chained to the fence behind it. I’m curious if this piece was fabricated specifically for this art installation, or if it’s a salvage from something else that’s been re-purposed. Either way it’s unbelievably cool.

Honeybee Mural

Bee Aware - Save the Honeybees Mural

Below are the signatures of the artists…

Bee Aware Mural

Bee Aware Mural

Ghost Town Farm

The mural that I highlighted yesterday (May Peace Prevail on Earth) is located just a block off 27th Street, a street I drive weekly. In the nine years I’ve lived in West Oakland, I’ve probably cruised past this spot hundreds of times and yet only noticed the mural just recently…

I decided to get out of my car (hurray!) and walk the neighborhood a bit…. it’s hard to really see things when you’re cruising by at 30 miles per hour. I found a lovely little elementary school with wonderful murals of its own (to be featured at a later date), a sweet pocket park next door, the gorgeous and historic Calou building (also to be featured another day), and this gem… the Ghost Town Farm.

What was so exciting about finding this spot is I had literally heard a full-length radio interview with the creator of the farm just days before on KQED’s Forum program… you can listen to the archive here.  Her name is Novella Carpenter and she is practically a local celeb – as a student of Michael Pollan at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism she has her own book: Farm City – The Education of an Urban Farmer, her own blog: Ghost Town Farm, and her own agenda to share stories about “people who follow unconventional paths,” herself most definitely included.

What’s largely unconventional about Novella’s farm is that she’s literally homesteading on someone else’s land.  It’s a large vacant & abandoned lot next door to her house that she simply decided to adopt and care for as her own.  As she says in her blog, “it all started with a few chickens, then some bees…” but what she has cultivated over the last ten years is a real working farm with rabbits, goats, pigs, fruit trees, and tons and tons of vegetables.

One of the things I found interesting in her interview on KQED was her discussion of the difference between a “garden” and a “farm.”  She said gardens tend to produce for an individual or one family… if someone picks your tomatoes, you might feel slighted or offended. On the contrary, farms produce for the community… when she sees someone picking her tomatoes she feels proud that they can enjoy food that she has grown. She maintains an open door policy and community members are welcome to view the farm, pick produce, meet the goats (though the day I stopped by they were secured behind the house for safety), and learn about sustainable urban farming.  This girl is cool!

During the interview with Dave Iverson, there was also a fascinating discussion of the legality and appropriateness of commandeering someone else’s property… do check out the audio archive.  Or better yet, check out Ghost Town Farm.  As far as I’m concerned, this is an act of guerilla art at its finest.

Ghost Town Farm Entrance

Ghost Town Farm Welcome

Ghost Town Farm

Ghost Town Farm Bees

Ghost Town Farm

May Peace Prevail on Earth

The traditional Aztec dancers from the Día de los Muertos festival reminded me of this mural I saw a few weeks ago with its blend of cultural imagery, including what appear to be various gods or goddesses.

It’s on an old boarded-up apartment building at the corner of 28th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. I wasn’t able to locate any artists’ signatures, but I did discover that the writing running along the top of the mural, which spans two sides of the building, says “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in several different languages. How beautiful is that? And how beautiful is this mural?!! The artistry is amazing.

Oakland Mural Art

The circle of black, red, and white above reminds me of some of the art I saw at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver, much of its collection focused on the art of the native peoples of the northwest coast. The figure of the raven is featured predominantly… legend has it that the first men were born out of a clamshell overseen by the raven (A Haida legend of the Raven and the First Men).

I wish I knew who the figure below surrounded by flames represents. Please send me some info if you happen to know.

Oakland Mural Art

Oakland Mural Art

I also love the incorporation of modern comic book characters (explorers above & warriors below) in between the dieties.

Oakland Mural Art

Oakland Mural Art

This last one looks Tibetan to me… but I really do not know. Anyone?

Oakland Mural Art

Note: later learned this to be another work by the folks at Community Rejuvenation Project.

Día de los Muertos

On Sunday my friends and I went to the Oakland Día de los Muertos festival centered around the Fruitvale BArt station, and all I can say is, “Wow!” What an extravaganza of sights, smells, & sounds… it was like a trip south of the border, but right here in our own backyard. As we exited the BArt station, the wailing tones of a trumpet greeted us… somehow that sound always says to me, “Mexico!”

This was the scene…

día de los muertos festival

El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans living in the U.S. and Canada. It is a day to celebrate and remember friends and family members who have died, and has its origins in an Aztec festival thousands of years old, dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Mictecacihuatl (Queen of the Underworld, Lady of the Dead) [Wikipedia]. For this reason there were numerous dance troupes performing traditional Aztec dances throughout the festival. Their headdresses were quite fantastical with feathers sometimes four feet long. Here are a few…

traditional aztec dancers

traditional aztec dancers

The traditional means of honoring ones loved ones is to build an alter to them.
These typically include a picture of the person being remembered, items they were fond of, food, candles, flowers, gifts, and more. They can be quite small & simple (a few items inside a shoebox) or incredibly large & elaborate with intricate artistic displays… we saw several that had amazing motifs created out of colored sand, rocks, beans, and more. Here are a few…

day of the dead altar

day of the dead altar

There were carnival rides too… we had to go down the superslide!

super slide

And extensive arts & crafts stations were set up throughout the festival where kids (and grownups) could create paper masks, paint sugar skulls & ceramic skeletons, cut patterned paper festival banners, and more. It was quite wholesome and so inspiring to see all the budding young artists at work!

día de los muertos festival

día de los muertos festival

día de los muertos festival

There were also plenty of grown-up artists displaying their wares. Typical Day of the Dead art incorporates skulls and skeleton figures into scenes reminiscent of those still alive… dancing, playing music, etc. This is meant to “show the duality of life, which is that it can only exist surrounded by death… that death is a part of life, to be accepted and acknowledged instead of feared.” [http://diadelosmuertos.us]

day of the dead art

day of the dead art

I particularly loved this artist’s work (below). His name is Ivan Rubio and you can see more of his incredible paintings at his myspace page: rubio (I couldn’t find his regular website.) Please check him out… this photo doesn’t do his beautiful work justice.

ivan rubio paintings

Mountain View Cemetery…

One of my favorite things to do, and an appropriately spooky outing for this Halloween, is to visit Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue. It’s a gorgeous piece of prime Oakland real estate, nestled against and stretching into the hills with stunning views of the entire Bay Area… nevermind that it’s full of dead people.

Because it’s also chock full of incredible art & architecture, not to mention a ton of local history.  It’s here that you can read about the Merritts (former mayor of Oakland Samuel Merritt, after whom Lake Merritt was named) and the Crockers (railroad builder Charles Crocker, namesake to Crocker Highlands) and a slew of other politicians, philanthropists, shipmasters, and businesspersons who helped shape this city.

The cemetery comprises over 220 acres containing, chapels, columbariums, crematoriums, mausoleums, and traditional graves, all amidst a breathtaking park-like setting that frequently draws hikers, bikers, a picnickers alike.  It always makes me smile to see a family stretched out, enjoying an afternoon lunch in the midst of the graves.

Founded in 1863, the park was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape design, and designer of many urban parks including Central Park in New York City. Part of what makes Mountain View unique from other cemeteries is this park-like design, which grew out of his integrated “vision of man and nature and their relationship to each other.”

Mountain View Cemetery Statues

Mountain View Cemetery Sculpture

There are fantastic examples of sculptural work in stone, concrete, and metal. I love this bronze angel…

Bronze Angel

Mountain View Cemetery

Bronze Sculpture

These next two crypts are from “Millionaires’ Row”… The one on the right is the Crocker crypt – I like to call it the giant penis. I’m sure he didn’t have a complex… um, right.

Millionaires' Row

Mountain View Cemetery Sphynx

Mountain View Cemetery

Mountain View Cemetery Lambs

Lots of angels…

Mountain View Cemetery Angels

Mountain View Cemetery Angel

Gravestones at Sunset

Mountain View Cemetery

Below is the view of San Francisco from the top…

View of San Francisco

The cemetery is open to the public everyday during daylight hours. Run by a nonsectarian, non-profit association, free docent tours are available the second and fourth Saturdays of each month starting at 10am.