There is probably no name more closely associated with buying music in the Bay Area than Amoeba. In 1990, they opened their doors here in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue and since then, the brand has expanded to two more branches in Los Angeles and San Francisco — supplying California with a comprehensive assortment of quality records. However, music was not the highlight of the Amoeba event hosted last Friday evening at the future location of the Black Spring Cafe in Oakland. Though a DJ was present, his beats took a backseat to the bizarre and eclectic collection of artwork on the walls.
For the fifth year in a row, Amoeba Music compiled a varied set of artistic works produced by around 17 members of their staff from all three locations. As with their wide-ranging selection of music, art featured was similarly diverse. There were the more traditional paintings like Ramo’s “Speaker Bird” which showcased a mix of spray paint and paint markers to convey the image of wide-eyed bird beset by, well, speakers. What else? The straightforward title and imagery of a piece like Ramo’s did not translate to the rest of the show.
Uncanny and unsettling depictions of neon-pink demons by Grace Cooper sat on one wall as renderings of Tupac and Biggie, painted rather crudely on cardboard by Michelle Guintu, adorned another. It was mixed bag to say the least. In the midst of that unfinished cafe, with its banal beige tile and somewhat shifty exterior, the largely lackluster artwork was also amateur and unimpressive. Occasionally, a truly fascinating piece, like Trixy Grace’s surrealist collage “Pegasus” (in which a nude woman with a skull for a head rides a horse), popped out from the sea of the otherwise dull material. But for the most part, though a few of the works displayed potential, Amoeba should stick to its forte: music.
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