Your guide to February Oakland Art Murmur


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1. Histoire Noir” at Mercury 20 Gallery

Though the discipline of history may seem fact-driven, emotion and imagination merge with historical renditions of Oakland and Europe in “Histoire Noir,” a two-part show opening at Mercury 20 Gallery.

Artist Jody Medich takes the stories of her relatives living on the border between Austria and Hungary during the two World Wars and dramatically translates the horrific details that she can only imagine into noir-inspired vignettes.

Oakland may seem far off from the destruction of war, but Jill McLennan parallels Medich with drawings of construction sites rendered as destroyers of the environment. Both women are at once historians and artists, embracing their inevitable biases toward the worlds around them. They don’t recreate events but instead portray unique vantage points through their visual records.

 

2. Left-Handed Letter to My Little Sister” at Awaken Cafe

Emma Webster layers mountain ranges, rivulets and clouds in her solo show at Awake Cafe. With overlaps of color, scratches of the past are incorporated abstractly, perhaps demonstrating the inability to fully remember previous times. Her exhibition is called “Left-Handed Letter to My Little Sister,” and it explores the phenomenon of growing apart emotionally from loved ones.

The abstracted, galactic space of emotional distance swirls on her canvases. Time and space destroy the indescribable forces of “being close” psychologically and as that feeling slips away, Webster captures the ensuing regret.

Yet the figures are still present and visible, perhaps as the mirage of hope for the future. Though the past cannot be replicated, it does not need to be restored but instead reformed into a new path.

 

3. SHE WORLD” at Krowswork

The duty of discovery is forced upon you at Ursula Brookbank’s “SHE WORLD.” You take a flashlight and illuminate the dark gallery, unveiling layers of women’s lives that are arranged on the walls. Hung among other found objects, photos illustrate ghostly, long-exposure portraits of women, that you, the viewer, animate with your light. In this way you become an artist yourself: Without your hand to guide the light, there would be no art to see.

These artifacts of women’s lives, which Brookbank has collected and bought from flea markets, call to the materialism of life and how objects can gain spiritual meaning. Though your light flits by, leaving the art behind, there is a sense of satisfaction as you pass objects on to the next viewer.

 

4. Between Spaces” at Creative Growth Art Center

The private and public space is explored simply as a construct in “Between Spaces” at the Creative Growth Art Center. Boundaries, thresholds and borders are all technically abstract ideas, but to us at times can seem to be concretized and literal.

Laura Jo Pierce’s stitchings, complete with writings and drawings on maplike surfaces, create a more literal translation of space and memory. George Wilson focuses on the human figure in space, energizing human interactions and relationships. In this group show, artists converse and grow through their works, showing interior and exterior spaces as more than empty vessels for living.

 

A.J. Kiyoizumi is the lead visual arts critic. Contact him at [email protected].