Archive for the ‘ARTIST STUDIO VISITS’ Category

A lot of my community efforts in the Oakland scene were inspired by this guy – artist Derek Weisberg. As cofounder of Boontling (one of the original Art Murmur galleries), Derek – then 21, now 27 – imagined a hang out spot and a network of creative types in an atmosphere that was casual and the opposite of what most people think of as the snooty gallery scene. It worked, it caught fire, the rest is history. Derek moved to New York last year and we miss him a lot. For those who know and love his sculpture, rest assured that he pushes on with his stylized figuratism, pushing his unique emotional renderings in a new yet strikingly consistent direction. I visited him and snapped a few pics of his new work, here displayed with discreet permission, he likes to play it close to the hip.

Gina Tuzzi will be showing in November of 2011 at Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery. Gina is that star you remember burning across the sky when you were twelve, right after sunset, laying on your back in the warm summer glow. With an illustrator’s mind-set, Gina’s imagery empowers us to not take ourselves so seriously – to take it easy.  I could not be more proud than to present the work of this brilliant local talent as the last of my solo-artists-in-Oakland tenure at Zza’s. Come celebrate a post-Halloween opening reception of her new work on Saturday, November 5th, 6pm to 9pm. 550 Grand Ave, Oakland, California.

I asked Gina a couple of questions after visiting her studio, trying to get to the bottom of things.

Obi: In my mind, there are three motifs I think of when I think of Gina Tuzzi’s work: crazy-trailers, eighties song lyrics and beards. Is that at all fair? Do you see that too? Where does that come from?

Gina: Man, reading those three motifs together back to back like that makes me feel like all creative credit concerning those particular facets of my work goes to my Dad, who made and traveled in custom vans in the 70’s (his van was named Vandago, my momma was the foxy co-pilot). He has an epic beard and taught me almost everything I know about music (he used to quiz me while listening to the radio as a kid). His spirit and cultural influence  are most definitely in parts of the work and probably always will be.

Obi: Can you sum up your biography and how you came to art in three sentences?

Gina: I come from the west side of Santa Cruz. I was raised by a carpenter/marine biologist/book doctor momma who’s an amazing gardener and a salesman papa who’s an incredible musician. I’ve been drawing since I was a little girl. I taught myself how to render by copying simple album covers from my parents vinyl collection – the Divine Miss M by Bette Midler, for example, and Phoebe Snow’s self titled, I remember copying those.

Obi: You have been showing your work a lot in the past couple of years, right? What’s next?

Gina: I have had the luck of some great shows this past year: 2 collabs at Swarm (one with John Casey and one with Ethan Worden), the diRosa auction, Basel Miami with Hello Kitty, a solo show at my favorite record store on the planet, group show with some of my heroes at Electric Works in SF, staff show at my beautiful place of work, Creative Growth. Damn, I am waaaaaay blessed! Next up in the art world for me is working more with the altar structures, hopefully allowing my work to become more devotional and ceremonial. And more tattooed figures, which in their own way also feel devotional and a lot like prayers. And most immediately in my art future…… in honor of the last year of the Mayan cycle, it’s time to make a new calendar.

Forest Stearns is a force of nature; his email is draweverywhere at gmail, for crying out loud. “Animals of California”, a presentation of Forest’s drawings and paintings, will be premiering on Saturday night at Zza’s Wine Bar. Being fresh off the Playa, I am sure Forest will be his high-octane self. I can’t wait to hang out with him again.

Obi: By way of biography, where do you come from and what is your art training? Have you always been a drawer? What has been your experience in showing your work?

Forest: I was born the only child of artistically adventurous parents in the vast jungle of the Sierra Nevada. Spending a lifetime with drawing tool in hand, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I came by my passion for art naturally, growing up in the home studio of my mother Dianne Stearns. With a prolific artist and teacher as a mother, I was empirically educated in the daily life of the fine artist. My father Ron also bestowed in the focus and attention of a craftsman as an expert builder of fine cabinetry. Between very supportive parents and a strong peer group, I was primed for my first steps into the art world.

From AA degrees at Columbia Junior College to a BFA at Humboldt State University, my fine art bloomed to a prolific explosion of productive creative works. Empire Squared, a monstrous art group, was founded in my Humboldt apartment and grew in to a full-blown art gallery and workspace. It became a non-profit community organization of over 30 contributing members and continues to have monthly art shows. By participating in and curating over 80 months of exhibitions in and out of Humboldt County, my professional connections turned a corner to the commercial side of art. Building a diverse client list from the likes of Amoeba, Warner Bros, Tower Records, Universal, and Four Letters Clothing made me want to develop my talents with a first-class art education. After graduating from Humboldt State University and spending a semester abroad in Greece, I spent my time doing commercial work, sharing graffiti/street art and teaching art at Arcata Arts Institute. Humboldt County has a glass ceiling and one freelance job really made the difference in my career, illustrating multimedia watercolors for a children’s book The Wonderful Adventures of Ozzie the Sea Otter.  I was so inspired by the production of a children’s book that I decided to attend graduate school for illustration at the Academy of Art University in 2007.

Obi: What projects have you been involved in lately and what’s coming up next?

Forest: It has been a year since I graduated with honors from a Masters of Fine Art program at the Academy of Art University, and I have been on the exhilarated art hustle every day since class ended. I am fully immersed in illustrating books, making toys, designing clothing, doing live art, and producing fine art shows. I am just back this week from painting many large murals for Burning Man at Black Rock City. Last month I was flown down to the Pacific Fest in OC to represent Deviant Art by painting a huge live art piece. I am currently working as Art Director and Head Illustrator for Fatbol Clothing company out of Humboldt, among other freelance illustration jobs. My future moves are to continue to develop my client base, talent, and epic adventures in art so I can do the type of work I love the most for the clients who will pay and appreciate it the most. DRAWEVERYWHERE, always. Between projects, I am always willing to have adventures, enjoy a good meal with laughing friends, and be the embodiment of DRAWEVERYWHERE.

Obi: What about these animals? Where did the inspiration come from for the book?

Forest: Animals of California – a series of painted illustrations anthropomorphizing selected animals of California, to be released as a set of children’s books. Viewers are drawn in by the fun, contemporary style, which gives distinct personality to each animal. The set of painted animal characters depict the diversity of California’s geographic regions and wildlife. The inspiration for the project came from my upbringing in the mountains. I was constantly out exploring the woods and found inspiration in the local fauna for artworks. Working in the children’s books vein in graduate school I noticed that most kids in the city where I had moved had no connection to their natural surroundings. By using multiple media, the illustrations are accessible to a variety of viewers, all with the intention of entertaining and educating the viewers both young and old, this work encourages a consideration of animals and a deeper connection to the natural world.

Zza’s is at 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. We will be there from 6pm to 9pm on Sat, Sept 17th. Saturday. Any more questions? call or text me: obi kaufmann 925.951-7501

Thomas exploded in my mind the first time I stepped out of Cato’s Pub. A bit buzzed as per usual, I found his monumental mural in the alley that Cato’s shares with The Rare Bird staring me down. The Rare Bird, a nominee for my own private “cutest-little-shop-in-the-world” award, will be hosting Thomas Christopher Haag‘s work this Thursday evening in conjunction with Piedmont Ave.’s Third Thursday Art Walk. I tracked him down at his studio in The Compound in North Oakland.
Obi: Your palette, figurative style are all very much set and branded. Have you always painted in this way? How did it come about?
Thomas: I’ve been painting in this style for about 6 years.  The style comes from a street art technique I used in my aerosol days. I would find a severely tagged-up, wheat-pasted wall (the messier the better) and I would use the existing mess as the fill-in for my characters. I basically do the same thing on panels. I create a patterned, complicated background layer with paint and pasted paper which I then use as the fill-in for characters, painting out the negative space which becomes the new background. It’s a lot of wasted time and effort, like 75% of the original layer gets completely painted over, but that’s how it’s done.
I mostly use all recycled materials in my work. Found wood to build the panels, old books for collage, and the paint I use is reclaimed latex house paint from liquid chemical disposal facilities. So my palette is totally dependent on the colors people in the area use inside their homes. In New Mexico, my palette was mostly earth tones and pastels.  In Oakland, the colors are brighter and more primary.
Obi: How did you come to be working in Oakland? Where do you come from?
Thomas: I lived in New Mexico for 4 years, having moved there from San Juan Island, Washington.  I missed the ocean.  Plus, Oakland is awesome, and the art scene here seemed more my style: community-oriented, friendly and DIY  and close to San Francisco and L.A.,  which have very active art scenes.   I’m originally from Wichita, Kansas…which has a less active art scene.
Obi: I love your giant mural next to Cato’s on the wall outside The Rare Bird. How did that come about and how long did it take you? Did you have it all drawn out first or did you improvise? Did you need to use scaffolding?

Thomas: Very soon after I first moved here from New Mexico (8 months ago), I was sitting at Cato’s enjoying well-crafted local ales and I noticed the blank wall across the way.  I walked into The Rare Bird and asked Erica if they were into having a mural done.  It turns out that they had been talking about doing a mural there just the day before.  She showed the building owner my portfolio and website, and a few days later I was painting.  The whole thing took 9 days, working about 10 hours a day, on a rickety aluminum ladder.  The owner wanted to see a sketch of the mural before I started, which I almost never do.   I gave him a quick sketch and he asked me to leave out the genitalia.  The finished product looks absolutely nothing like the sketch and there is genitalia hidden all over that mural.
The Rare Bird is located at 3883 Piedmont Ave, Oakland.

Elliot is not only one of the most talented, intuitive artists I know, he is also one of my oldest friends. I am so looking forward to his reception Saturday night down at Zza’s. Zza’s casual atmosphere is a perfectly comfortable environment for Elliot’s first show. I’m sure it will be a wonderful August night, warm smiles augmented by a few glasses of wine from one of the best collections in the Bay Area.

I remember when Elliot and I were both thirteen years old, just learning to paint and draw and Elliot would blow me away with his confident sense and his curvelinear graphic style.

Fast forward to the present day and I am so pleased to present the debut show of his work in the Bay Area. Trained as a gardener and a bike mechanic, Elliot’s outsider work is hugely refreshing to our local scene. The simple imagery in the work itself draws on wordly traditions, evoking disparate cultures and uniting them with a quality that appears remarkably free of influences and yet completely intellectual, based in philosophy.

He and I had a talk yesterday about the new paintings he has prepared for his show on Saturday night.

Obi: There are images, or not images, but shapes in your work that may be interpreted as sexual, right? what do you say to that.

Elliot: Well okay, take for instance the mushroom cloud shape. It contains a form that is at the same time, what we might traditionally think about as both masculine and feminine. There is the upward thrusting movement coming from a single point to what is, especially when seen from below, the enveloping, female shape of convection. So that is where it is at, this Ur-sexuality… The dividing point… It’s binary: the dividing point between zero and one. It’s cellular mitosis.  It is sexual on that level. It comes from, partly, your input, Obi, and the work we’ve done together but also for my own practice purposes. I have been trying to explore all of this.

Obi: Practice. That is an interesting idea. Do you think of your painting as a meditative practice in and of itself?

Elliot: This series was prompted by a meeting with my fiance, Catherine (Meng)’s mentor in New Mexico, Shelley Horton-Trippe. Simply based on the information that I was a painter and I hadn’t been painting, she gave me an assignment: you should work on small things in a series. She said pick a number.

Obi: What was the number?

Elliot: I think I said four. That turn into quadratic multiples.

Obi: Four turned into sixteen.

Elliot: So practice in the straight forward sense of being given an assignment and to paint again after not having painted for twelve to fourteen years. Then, bouncing off one or two of these images that were complete at the time. The blue orb is the oldest… painted that in 97. Specifically that one: that is the seed.

Obi: So what is the Orb?

Elliot: Well the orb is oddly a personal reference to the fact that I was listening to the Orb the last time I painted in my early twenties.

Obi: I appreciate the non-obvious answer.

Elliot: I was introduced to the Orb around that time by the very-excellent painter Clay Witt, who I knew in Arizona but now teaches in Virginia. He said that to me one day, he said you know, the really unifying thing I see in your work is the Orb. About two weeks before that he started playing me the Orb, I had never heard them before. So, anyway, full moons, the cyclical energy, this kind of thing.

Obi: Do you name your shapes ever? They seem like they have an almost mathematical life all to themselves?

Elliot: No. I resist classifications although I can’t deny the taxonomy. I work from a sense of starting over. I stick to the simple practice of the binary as it relates to the practice of the curve, if you will.

Oh I will Elliot, I will. No, you can’t find him on facebook.

The Paintings of Elliot Fredericksen
Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery
550 Grand Ave.
Oakland, California

Show reception: Saturday Augst 13th, 2011. 6pm-9pm
Show runs through September 17th

I went out to see Marcos at his Concord studio the other day. If you don’t know where Concord is, suffice it to say it is deep in the East Bay. We shared some really beautiful beer (Marcos drinks beers that are defined as being beautiful) and talked about where his paintings are going. We thought they were coming to Levende as part of my curatorial program there, but alas, sometimes, god laughs at your plans. So now Marcos has some brilliant work lying around, waiting for love. Lucky you though, you can catch Marcos as he debuts a skate ramp piece in Concord on Thursday, August 4th. Metro Skateshop, 1120 Contra Costa Blvd. 8:30 to 11:30 pm. show up and support.

Obi: In the past couple of years your work has really taken on text in an almost poetic way. Where is the poetry for you, in the subtle phrase or the font you illustrate?

Marcos: In both. I’m very turned on by typography and lettering, I always have been, so I am mindful of the way the letters are crafted. The words or phrases accompany my paintings in an illustrative way. In my drawings they are meant to be humorous, serious, or inspiring. It’s very interesting to me that words on thier own, or out of context, can take on other meanings and are open to interpretation.

Obi: You use a lot of printing techniques in your gallery-picture making. As one who has identified so heavily with Street Art, do you find any discrepancy between your mode of working and some of your inspiration sources? When did you give up the rattle can?

Marcos: I took some really great printmaking classes during my time at CCA and learned a lot of neat tricks, some of which I still use in my art. I decided a while back that I would try to keep my gallery work and my graffiti separate. My graffiti is mostly for self gratification and is more of a hobby these days. I don’t believe graffiti belongs in a gallery. Graffiti and Street Art is how I came up and I don’t think I’ll ever give up the spray. I’m actually really excited that they’re now making acrylic spray paint and I’ve recently been experimenting with it.

Obi: What is happening over there in the East side of the East Bay? I know you get shows at Spoon and Tonic but where do you continue to find your inspiration?

Marcos: Living in Concord is good for me because it’s good for my family. It’s quiet and I can get a lot done. I’m very close to BART, so I can jump on the train and head in to the City or Oakland anytime. Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek is a great gallery. They’ve had some really amazing exhibits and they recently commissioned me to do this tote bag.  Spoontonic is my local bar, the people there are cool as hell and I’ve had my work on display there a few times. I’m currently finishing up a mural project at METRO skate shop in Concord. They are really rad folks and have always been supportive of my work.

To be honest most of my inspiration comes when I’m driving. I commute a lot and I listen to music in the car, so my mind wanders when I’m driving or sitting in traffic. Other than that I’m fortunate to know some amazing artists who continue to inspire me.

Obi: Despite being a gifted gallery artist, I know you are a brilliant graphic artist too. What projects are online for you right now?

Marcos: Gifted?! Wow, thanks Obi! Brilliant?! Wooh, thanks again! Yeah, I am also a graphic designer and it’s how I pay my bills. I’ve worked on a few book projects recently, most notably Alex Pardee’s Awful/Resilient published by Ginko Press. I’ve had discussions about future book projects, but can’t let any cats out the bag yet. You can view some of my design work here. Although, I’ve recently been focusing more on my art and trying to push that instead of my design work.

photo of Derek Weisberg in his Oakland Studio, August 2, 2011.

Derek is moving to New York and we will all be wishing him the best of luck, tonight at the Commonwealth Pub in Oakland at 7:30. Derek and I have been working together for over five years now and I hope that continues as he sprouts wings and moves to the Big Apple. His always professional disposition and his impeccable eye both an artist and a curator will be sorely missed.

Those of you who know Live Art Wednesdays, know Kelly Monson and her work. You probably know her as one of the youngest members of the group, but also as one of the most mature artistic voices there as well. Next week at Zza’s Wine Bar (Oakland, 550 Grand Ave) we are pleased  to host the first solo show of Kelly’s work. The show is called “Defaced”. Please come to the reception, July 9th, 2011, Saturday, 6pm to 9pm. Below is an quick interview to introduce you to her mode of artmaking.

Obi: I’ve known you and your art for a while now and can’t wait to see what you have been doing in preparation for this, the first solo show of your work. How have you been preparing? What are the themes you’ve been working with?

Kelly: I’d say that the theme I’ve been working with has been pretty consistent throughout this year. A lot of my preparation involves scribbling in my sketchbook, psychoanalyzing myself and watching horror movies. The work in my show is kind of split up between graphite / ink and colored pencil, but I consider the overall theme to be consistent – I depict the human figure and also distort it, deface it in a way using collage or a particular drawing style, which conveys a metaphor for what’s going on inside the body, psychologically or spiritually.

Obi: I know you studied art in Chicago for bit. How does your experience there effect your life as a young artist here? Do you think you would be making the same type of art anywhere?

Kelly: My experience in Chicago had really changed me. I went in as a painter, obsessed with traditional oils and a very specific kind of expressionistic style. My education at SAIC broke that all down. For a while, I hardly painted at all, and whatever paintings I did make there were absolutely terrible. I did learn a lot about conceptual art and the thinking behind art-making, which really improved my ability to give my work meaning, but it was only after I transferred out that I started regularly making 2D art again, and I think my abilities have changed drastically, in a good way. I know a lot more about what I’m doing.

photo of the artist Kelly Monson, courtesy of the artist

Obi: You work mostly with pencil, your figurative work seems about subtraction, the empty spaces, the body as a landscape. Has this always been the case? When you dream of your art in the future, do you imagine working in a different way? Is there ever a plan?

Kelly: I think the nature of my work has always been the same ever since I started seriously learning art, although I haven’t always worked with pencil. I think that eventually I’d like to get back to painting, but I’ve been on a break from painting for a very long time – there’s a certain point where a person needs to step back from their old paradigms and start approaching things from a new perspective, to gain more insight. I’m always open to tackling new ideas and methods, but I don’t think there’s a “plan” necessarily. If I had a solid plan for where my work was going, I would be restricting myself to that plan, and not keeping an open mind.

for more information, visit the artist’s website at

After a presenting a successful new approach to his popular “Logic Stone” style, one which involves color,  at a  last year’s auction at SoEx, Kerri Johnson approached Steven Barich about a solo show at Branch Gallery. “Zen with a Kickstand, and other New Work” debuted May 27th and will close following July’s Art Murmur, First Friday event. I sat down with Kerri and Steven and a bottle of cheap red wine to discuss what the hell is going on. Normally I do interviews via email but I am now going to present some recorded conversations to probe a little deeper, thus the wine.

Obi: Kerri, do you show a particular kind of artist at branch?

Kerri: Oh, like emerging versus established? I would say they are mainly mid-career. Not quite established, that generally means that the rent is getting paid through the art. Is there something between emerging and midcareer?

Steven: I would say there is the title, working artist. You are working to establish your art, pay your rent and find connections and a community. When you are mid career you are getting praised by the establishment beyond just working at it. Then, beyond that, the established artist is on a true road, accepted by the institution.

Obi: Is there any establishment or institution in Oakland beyond, say, the museum?

Steven: Well that is the thing about Oakland, before even the scene took off there were more established artists then I could count living in Oakland but showing in San Francisco and LA and even around Europe. They just lived here because it was cheap and they could be incognito. The museum was California and Bay Area art, they didn’t just look to Oakland. They just happen to be in Oakland. I would say there is no institution to validate anyone in Oakland.

Obi: We kinda like it that way though too.

Steven: That is what I was about to say, that is what makes it nice. You have to have far reaching goals, that is what makes you provencial or not.

Obi: But that is not you, I wanted to almost think of this show as a homecoming, but you showed last year at Rowan Morrison. You love Oakland.

Steven: Yes, I grew up here and I went to school here. Then I left and went to Europe and felt like I had my real education there. I became an emerging artist there. Then, by forces beyond my control, I ended up back here and just kept doing here what I had been doing there but by then the whole scene here had changed. I met people like Kerri and Jason of Blankspace and Matt and Lena of the Compound and Pete and Narangkar of Rowan Morrison and yourself, Obi, and other artists who were promoting it like John Casey and Derek Weisberg. There were all new players from before when I was here trying to do the same thing around 1999. They were all way more organized than I could ever have been. It was all better than I could have expected. I decided to stay. But the question is then what happens to all the players, both as gallerists and as artists? We hope that everyone who made the scene, succeeds and is recognized. Take for instance, Blankspace had a huge and great run but I noticed that you, Kerri, as a gallery did not get as much press as I thought you deserved only because of others, who arrived after you, got more.

Obi: Did Artopic arrive out of that? Your own frustration? Become your own press in true DIY Oakland fashion?

Steven: Yes, that was part of it. I wanted there to be a place where those who were developing the scene would have a chance to think and write about it. Establish the scene with words as much as actions. I believe you have to self-document yourself. Especially here where we don’t have Robert Hughes or Clement Greenberg or big art critic players. I don’t know, to make a long story short, I think of my work as able to move in a worldly global fashion and to be exhibitable anywhere beyond my friends, colleagues and peers. Beyond my local scene. But, I also have now realized in my age and experience that you really need to start where you are and develop the ground work with those around you, working the same scene, and to be reciprocal in that. To identify developments and only then will you have something to really talk about.

Steven Barich and Mable

Obi: Kerri, Did Steven show at Blankspace before you closed in 2010?

Kerri: He didn’t actually, we didn’t get a chance to show him. He has always been on my list of artists I wanted to show. At Blankspace, we were showing a lot of installation based work, a bit of a different track than here at Branch Gallery. Our big installation shows back then were the likes of John Rogers and Pete Nelson.

Obi: Blankspace was your first gallery, right?

Kerri: It was. I had curated here and there, but Blankspace was my first.  When we closed Blankspace a year ago, I had already started BAYVAN with Nicole Neditch and Brooke Baird. We are coming on our two year anniversary at Branch.  BAYVAN came from us talking to the Ellington in Downtown Oakland. They had asked us to find local artists for them. They ended up buying thirteen floors of local art. This gallery was the natural progression from that launch. A branch, so to say, of the larger network.

Obi: How has the mission statement evolved from Blankspace to Branch?

Kerri: It is very similar. At Blankspace we were already paying rent there because we were living there and it therefore we were really able to show more installation artists. A lot of our friends happened to be installation artists too back then. We haven’t had any installation work here yet but I am in talks with some artists to transform the space. We have 200 artists in our registry at BAYVAN and at Branch, we show artists from that registry. To become a BAYVAN artist, we do an open call and we also curate artists into it.

Obi: This a three month show, that is contrary to the norm here where you get your four weeks and you are gone. What was the intention there?

Kerri: We made the show run longer because we have limited hours. We wanted to make sure people had a chance to see it. We are open Fridays, eleven to two and then every First Friday, and then by appointment and we have had many people do that.

Kerri Johnson

Obi: Okay, let’s talk about Oakland. Steven, do you think your work is some kind of reflection or reaction to Oakland as a thing?

Steven: No, I don’t think art has to be a reflection of place at all. I would say that because I have had over twenty years of art making in Oakland, it has certainly influenced the choices of what I want to make work about. I think this body of work is particularly different than all my other bodies of work. I, myself, have become the reflection of where I live, of what I do.

Obi: I would say that your work is certainly influenced by multiculturalism. The Asian influence is strong in your work. The big one is called “Dragon’s Claws,” isn’t that a mediation of violence somehow?

Steven: Depending on what mythos we are talking about. For me, when I am making these works, based on scholar’s rocks, they are considering meditation on aesthetics. A dragon is a powerful thing. We are talking about powerful aesthetics. I am using the Dragon title as a strong thing, not a violent thing.

Obi: Do you identify with this kinda Neo-Op we see in such awesome local talent as Brian Caraway, a Branch artist, or Steuart Pittman, a Blankspace artist?

Steven: Funny you mention Brian. He and I have been talking a lot lately about art and issues like optics in our art. I would say neither of us think of ourselves as Op artists or post-painterly abstractionists or whatever. Both he and I, do though, think about marks with very specific ways of making them and if you deviate from that path, you ruin the image.

Obi: Kerri, I know you are an artist too. How has being an artist influenced your decision of who to show?

Kerri: Most of the artists I show make work that is radically different from my own. I enjoy that. I would never surround myself with artists who make work exactly like me. I appreciate people’s individual vision. When I am looking for an artist to show, there is usually one piece that really resonates with me.

Obi: What is the one piece in this show?

Kerri: Visual Blockade, the big color one. Similar to the one I saw at SoEx last year. I wanted to see where it could go.

For more information, visit Steven Barich’s website, Kerri Johnson’s art website, and BAYVAN’s website

David Seiler is one of our big local stars. His figurative expressionist style is definitive and immediately recognizable. When he is not at Live Art Wednesday, you can usually find him at his studio/gallery called Victorian Rat of West Mac in Oakland. You can see his latest work at Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery when it opens this weekend, May 14th. 6pm. 550 Grand Ave, Oakland. You can also see his drawings in a show entitled “Celestial/Terrestrial” at Five Points Art House, 72 Tehama, San Francisco, CA through the end of May. David’s paintings will be at Levende, home of Live-Art-Wednesday in August. I got a lot of pics of David’s huge painting but it will not be exhibited as such. He is going to cut it up and exhibit pieces of it as individual pages.

Obi: You have always been inspired by California in your work, but lately it seems more so than ever. What has recently inspired you about this place?

David: When things in every day life from all around are spinning in chaos I feel the need to ground my self and look to the past. California…Oakland…The Bay is my ground. I realized I know nothing of this place but feel her love… So I am reading, looking, feeling, trying to find a way for her to work through me. The people of this land before the alien invasion (missions) had it made. I constantly day dream of Oakland before then.

Obi: You have three shows coming up this summer in the Bay Area: Five Points, Zza’s and Levende. How is your approach differing between the three shows?

David: Yeah! I’m so lucky and have a shitload of work still to do! So i draw draw draw. Each show is like showing my “work” for the next. Drawing for Five Points is planning for Zza’s and after those two shows I will work for Levende. I’m painting on a huge 30ft x 13ft canvas that I’m painting in my studio folding and painting in sections. It’s exciting for me when I’m all done. I will edit and “photoshop” in reality…no computer necessary… cutting and pasting using layer effects, then more layers. Working and thinking like that program makes it fun for me. It’s all coming together while falling all apart.

Obi: You were talking to me yesterday about animal dreams. What are your dreams like? Are they like your paintings?

David: In talking about animal dreams I wish I had them. People fill my dreams. The natives of the bay costantly hoped they would be visted by animal guides. I’m still inviting them to come and teach me. My paintings and drawings are more like plans and designs for my dreams in which I hope the animal spirits play and guide me in. Ha! I sound like my dad. That’s great!

Heidi Cregge debuts her new work at Levende, Friday, May 6th, 2011. If you have not been to an opening yet at Levende, you have to check it out. It is a new type of Art opening experience really. They don’t start until 9pm, for one. The bar makes it a great place to end your First Friday Art Murmur walk with a tasty beverage. The huge walls in the place make large format work possible and this month, we are all so proud to host the work of “Live Art Wednesday” Veteran Heidi Cregge. Heidi’s beautifully painted organic forms are graphically arresting and are all certainly compelling. I asked her a few questions about where her inspiration comes from.

Obi: What is your relationship to the Ocean? I know it comes from a personal history which includes Hawaii, right?

Heidi: I am an island child. My mother is a surfer and my father is a sailor. Growing up in Hawaii and surrounded by water, the Ocean is life. A lot of the time it kept my father away from home, though, and from all the times of asking the waves for his return, I grew a relationship with the Ocean that was a little fear and a lot of respect.

Obi: What other incarnations has your art had in the past? Can you walk me through a little chronology of your art career? Have you always been attracted to these organic forms?

Heidi: My first artistic pursuits were in photography and filmmaking, which led to my work with video compositing, special effects, and programming. In grad school I used ocean plants and organic shapes to challenge my programming and 3D modeling skills, and it became clear that I was creating artworks about my home. To take a break from coding, I would also create a great deal of organic forms in felted wool, crafting them as exultant offerings with inner and sometimes interactive glow.

I’ve shown a lot of installation and sculptural work in the past few years, and consider myself a visual artist with a lot of computer art skills. Lately, I have returned to the idea that making art for the Ocean is a sign of respect. In Hawaiian culture, it is a belief that all things are spiritual and filled with life. Lifting up a marine life form as a totem, filling it with light, and giving it life, honors the Ocean. Do I do this because the Ocean is all that exists between here (California) and home? Maybe.

Obi: Talk to the formality of the work? There is an almost scientific quality about it, wouldn’t you say? As if these forms exist outside of an ecosystem…

Heidi: There’s a lot of science in ocean life, especially when you want to recreate organic forms in the computer. The natural order of coral growth patterns are amazing – fractals that grow and branch while waves and water temperatures create subtle variation. The pure-space of a computer is probably the opposite of a real-space ecosystem, though, and that influence shows in my work. I’m inspired by the algorithms of natural forms, oceanographic illustration, and navigation: charting, stars and sextants, satellites. Because of my family’s sea-faring ways, my work also explores travel, separation, and reunion. It’s what I know.

Zza’s Wine Bar. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. will be hosting the paintings of Steuart Pittman this Saturday night, April 2, 2011.

The show will run for six weeks. The title of the show is “NEW VOODOO”


Obi: How long have you been in Oakland Steuart? How did you come to find yourself living in your great apartment in West Oakland?

Steuart: I moved to Oakland from Chicago four years ago to attend Mills College. I’ve lived in the Ghosttown/Northgate/Uptown neighborhood for the last two and a half years. I used to have a separate studio space in Jack London Square and when the opportunity arose to consolidate life and work into one warehouse unit, I jumped on it. I feel comfortable and at home in this big old building, and I’m generally attracted to the industrial nature of the neighborhood. It’s safe to say that the architecture and colors throughout West Oakland are an influence in my work.

Obi: How did the title of this show come about? New Voodoo? I know you are imagining a new type of art-magic that holds power in and of itself and not making any specific reference to religion, are you?

Steuart: That is true, for the most part. I’m not sure what the paintings I build contain – in terms of power or meaning – but I’m hesitant to assume that they are entirely neutral, or void of some force. I’m as pragmatic as the next guy, but when you spend so much of your time trying to fabricate objects that are both precious and useless, there is an implicit sense that you believe there is something greater that’s  going on.

My partner is a writer and she and I are working on a book of spells together called New Voodoo for the Modern Practitioner. I’m doing the illustrations. We both became interested in voodoo around the same time but we are focusing on different elements of the practice. I feel an affinity with shrines, in particular. Last year I saw a photography exhibit at the Museum of the African Diaspora (Brian Wiley’s African Continuum: Sacred Ceremonies and Rituals) devoted to shrines, and – though I didn’t think much of it at the time – I keep returning to the notion of random physical objects possessing specific, appointed powers. But, no, I’m not making any explicit observations here on a given religion, Haiti, New Orleans, Cuba, etc. Rather, I’m thinking about the ways in which my own painting practice resembles a devotional act.

With that said, I’ve developed a real reverence for voodoo culture and its various practitioners. As a humble homage, I’m pleased to be sending 10% of the proceeds from this show to relief efforts in Haiti. Who knows, if abstract paintings in a wine bar in Oakland can generate even the tiniest impact on a crisis halfway around the world, maybe that right there is the New Voodoo.

Obi: Your process to make paintings seems to start on a very gestural level and then build slowly from there. Is that right? How did you come around to this process and how does the text fit in? I know your titles inform the work a lot.

Steuart: The paintings I’ve been making in the last couple years develop slowly and conclude relatively quickly. I draw all the time in various sketchbooks and this helps me generate all sorts of ideas – lines, shapes, phrases, and jokes – that then begin to inform the paintings. I’m fairly traditional in the sense that I make a ton of drawings that are used as studies for a smaller body of oil paintings.

With my paintings, I build the support structures with as much care and precision as I can muster, and then I try to get across one concise, elemental idea in the final composition. I hope these works function like a mysterious haiku as opposed to a lengthy novel. Ideally, they will arrive at some precarious balance between harmonious formalism and eccentric quirkiness.

In specific regard to the titles, I have to cite one of my mentors at Mills College, Ron Nagle, who maintains that there is no higher philosophic order than that of the one-liner. The great Chicago painter, Jim Nutt, is one of my favorites and he too is a master of the provocative, curveball title. Life is too short to take art or anything too seriously, so I try to keep things fresh with the titles. I think I’ve really raised the bar with this show, there are some good ones…

We are so very proud to host the large paintings of Nathaniel Parsons at Levende, opening April 1, 2011. The reception will begin at 9pm after Oakland’s First Friday. The show is called TRAVELAGE and will run for one month. I snapped the pictures below during a studio visit with him at his spacious workspace down at the Hive in Oakland.

Obi: This is the third studio visit and interview I’ve had with you Nat in the past four years that we have been friends. I am a huge fan, collector and even curator of your work, so I want to ask you some advanced questions about your work. In prepping for TRAVELAGE, as you are making some of the largest pieces in your recent catalog, how have you taken on the challenge? Has working large-scale changed your process, or does it just take longer?

Nathaniel: I haven’t always worked small. I was gifted these surfaces by studio mate Dave Higgins, I am indebted to the freedom it encouraged. It gave me more room not to fill up. I think I was able to pull out the bigger brushes and depict bigger gestures. The smaller work tends to derive structures found in systems like maps, shared space, use of legend or key, associative elements in layered compositions. The bigger ones somehow didn’t need that, for me. I was happy to keep the work more sparse.

Obi: You have been back in the Bay Area for about five years. How does San Francisco compare to the your homeland? What is your homeland and what tradition does SanFrancisco represent in your own narrative, given your regular references to Americana history and the like?

Nathaniel: I became a conscious maker in Oakland, 1990, the painting, was of my girlfriend, I loved her so much, the image mostly yellow, always had her in it, but it also found it’s identity as a stage, an interior with ghosts all around, there is a man, and a section of the painting that I painted from still life. A thrift store mug full of tulips sitting on a table. It was a fusing of the real and the imagined and desired. Yuri and Josh own it. I am always happy to have made it. That painting was unlike my teacher’s work, it is fairly formal, but what made it relate to the times, to this place has fueled me ever since. I am the son of artists, this town is the sibling to the nation, even the natives seem to know that were on the edge, a little out of view, a little too real. I respect and wish to honor the importance of the work that has been made in California, SF Figuration, Bay Area Realism, California Conceptualism, Beat Era Funk Art, I water the graves of those that I can only know through what they made. I choose to live here because I can feel right most of the time in being reverent of such production while cobbling together my work. I Miss My River.

Obi: I know there are stories attached with each of your pieces. Your art, as you say, is born out of conversation. You have one piece in the show with names swirling out of a campfire. Can you tell me that story? And then the bucket with the mirror? The Hanky Pool? Tell me that story too.

Nathaniel: First Audience 2011 oil on canvas depicts a campfire in a forest. The trees or people behind the trees shout out the names of friends, this painting is a tribute to my parents friends, not all are included, some have passed, my parents have moved. They were always so generous to an inquisitive child. It illustrates an idea I had of building a fire pit in the woods for my parents to have a “last” party.
Hanky Pool 2011 oil on canvas with painted wood, and objects. Is a depiction of a former feature at Yellowstone National Park. The Hanky Pool was stationed on tours by a ranger that would dirty a hanky and throw it in to the pool, it would get sucked down and disappear for two minutes, only to resurface cleaned by the heated water. He would fish it out with a metal basket. The pool became clogged by visitors throwing in their own objects. I contemplate this with slogans, What Goes In Dirty Comes Out Clean or What Goes In Broken Comes Out Whole. Of course this cant always be true.

Oakland artist Ryan McJunkin debuts new work Saturday night in a show called “Trees are Trees.” The title is analogous to Ryan’s no-nonsense manner of being. He is a very straightforward guy and so is his work. Straightforward and prolific. This will be the first time we have a print rack at the wine bar in order to accommodate orders for his serial work.

Obi: Describe for us a bit of your biography Ryan, I know you have had your studio at the Compound in North Oakland for some time, how did that end up happening?

Ryan: I grew up on the peninsula in Silicon Valley and took classes at De Anza and Foothill community colleges. Then I lived out in New Mexico and Arizona, where I took more classes and spent as much time as possible out the canyons and National Parks of the western states. I transfered to art school in Baltimore for five semesters, graduated, then moved to San Francisco and eventually ended up in Oakland about two and a half years ago. I started visiting the old Compound on San Pablo, since it was just four blocks from my house. I shared a dark, damp space in the back and then moved happily into my own well lit space when the Compound moved to the new location on 65th street in Oakland.

Obi: There is clearly a correlation between the photo images you print and the nature of your line work in your paintings. How did that come about? What is you printing process?

Ryan: My paintings often start by pouring fluid paint and tilting the canvas to control the direction of the resulting lines. The way the streams of paint branch out are very similar to branching patterns in nature such as rivers and tree branches, veins, etc. The hard part is the drawings are so crude I need a massive canvas to really get the effects I like. I found using compressed air instead of gravity to get the paint moving  gives me more control and allows me to work on a smaller scale. I often draw using this method, and then layer it with computer assisted techniques when I create the stencil on the silk screen. So the resulting stencil is a combination of both digital and hand drawn methods that blend together seamlessly. This process is usually repeated for each color, so a multi-color print may contain dozens of layers.

Obi: Why trees? You are a talented figure painter as well, could this show have been called “figures are figures?”

Ryan: Trees just felt like an uncluttered vision for me. They are an essential part of the human experience for most people and one that is truly taken for granted. My grandfather was a landscape painter and I grew up with his paintings in every room of the house.  So it is a bit of an homage to both my grandfather and my dad, who was always supportive in my art making, and trees just seemed the most appropriate.

For more info go to

We are very proud to host the insanely rendered and oh so delightfully disturbing  paintings of Alison OK Frost (the artist formally known as Alison Offil-Klein) this  Saturday at Zza’s. Zza’s Art receptions happen from 6 to 9 pm and the food is always great, as is the company. Hope to see you there.

Obi: How did you start painting and drawing? Where did you go to school?

Alison: I have always used painting and drawing as a way to deal with things around me that I don’t understand or can’t put words to, from a very young age. I was lucky enough to grow up in Los Angeles and have a pretty sizeable exposure to museums as a kid, and it was easier for me to relate to visual expressions than verbal. I went to a high school for the arts—think Fame but with painters and sculptors in addition to performers—which meant I was painting or drawing everyday starting at 15. I went on to go to UCLA for my BA, which was great because the faculty was amazing and I was exposed to a lot of subjects outside studio art, and I was able to take classes in departments ranging from History to Scandinavian Studies. (Although I never ventured into the math or science buildings in my four years there.) I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York for my MFA. It was interesting to go from UCLA, whose focus is so intellectual and theoretical, to SVA just a few years later, where just by the nature of its proximity to Chelsea, the focus becomes more commercial and you can’t help think of your work in terms of saleability.

Obi: Where does you vividly sociological subject matter come from?

Alison: When I was younger, I used to wonder if people would notice if the apocalypse occurred. The question would follow of course, has the apocalypse already happened? While I think these are pretty typical thoughts for a disenfranchised teenager, it does seem like we as a society are headed toward some ecological or biological catastrophe. The more inevitable this seems, the more noise and distraction we make to help mask the fear, or conversely we create illusions of control over our environment, airbags and water bottles and helicopter parenting. On a more personal level, a few years ago, I began struggling with issues related to my eyesight. The thing about your visual field is that as it starts to grow hazy, experientially it seems as though the world is disappearing. You are also left to imagine what types of horror you are missing. My brain would fill in the blanks sometimes with terrible things, so rather than the faces of fellow subway riders being blurred, I would see them distort with evil and disease. I ended up in a pretty dark place, and alternately sought out and was haunted by own personal demons. So while the imagery that I paint comes from a shared global experience of the world and humanity’s effect on it and vice versa, it is also related to a kind of micro-apocalypse, and the ways in which fear and self-destruction can manifest on a personal level.


Obi: I know you just got married…Has your life changed much? What is in store for the future?

Alison: Well, probably the biggest change is that I am no longer planning a wedding—my husband referred to me pre-wedding self as “Craftzilla” which I think is actually pretty funny and apt. I love being married, and I feel really blessed to have the love and support that Heiko brings to my everyday life. I have learned through experience to keep my romantic relationships separate from my art subject matter as much as possible, so don’t expect too much of a change there. In 2011, I am going try my hand at curating, starting with a group show I am developing with Kevin Clarke for MacArthur b arthur in Oakland. I have a long-distance collaborative project in the works with New York-based artist Elwyn Palmerton that I am really excited about, and I want to move more into printmaking, both as an artistic challenge and a way to increase volume.

For more on Alison OK Frost visit her website here.

I’ve known Alissa Goss for a couple of years now and we have been working at scheduling her upcoming Zza’s show for a while. I am thrilled that the time is finally here! Saturday night, Alissa Goss brings her wall-hung sculpture to Zza’s in Oakland. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. It is the first time I have hosted a show of sculpture at Zza’s and I know the effect of her colorful, organic ceramic will be wonderful. I had a studio visit with her this week as she was preparing for her show .

Obi: How did you become an artist working in Oakland? Can you walk us through a quick biography? 

Alissa: In some ways my move from Los Angeles to Oakland was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.  I was living and working in Venice Beach and I had a rare moment where I was in complete harmony with my future path. I knew without a doubt that I needed to come here. The choice was made all the more appealing of course because the art scene was (and is) thriving and geographically you can be in the city, nature and the sea practically all at once!  I  moved here to attended CCA where I studied ceramics and sculpture and I chose to stay.  Culture, history and landscape make Oakland an easy place to call home.  I’ve been here for over five years now, and today I am even more impressed than when I first arrived and am honored to add to the long list of practicing artist who call Oakland home.  


Obi: When looking at your work, I immediately make associations with patterns of biological growth, like bacteria and other organic systems and yet I read in your statement that you investigate domesticity as a concept in your work. How is that connection made?

Alissa: Firstly, a concept which doesn’t get as much attention is the fact that the work is spontaneous and process based.  It’s not my intention to frustrate a viewer, and so many people need to know what the thing is that they’re looking at and have come to the conclusion that it’s something from nature.  But I am not interested in representation – the things that I make are all imagined.  I rarely look at source material or sketches while I sculpt. My work is very of the moment.  While I’m building I work quickly and listen to music in the studio to keep up a melodic rhythm similar to a dancer.  My works in clay are composed of hundreds of small balls of clay as well as handmade tiny pins which protrude outward.  I employ the use of knitting needles to poke small holes into the clay and create the works much like you’d knit a sweater (another activity I love to do!). After the structures are built I begin to think about what I am looking at and plan out what is necessary to complete the work.  Color is essential –  A recurring theme of pinks, greens and oranges has been prevalent in my pallet, which I attribute to the pop culture of LA where I grew up.  Recently I see a shift happening towards darker muted colors as a result of my current surroundings.  The fact that there are resemblances to bacteria, fungus and organic systems is happenstance and somewhat a byproduct of my process. The act of reproducing a texture over and over again and it taking over a form is intentional. The accumulation aspect in my work could relate to the natural order found in botany and each variety of texture I use acts as it’s own species, but again they are all imagined and non-representational. With regard to the domestic aspects I refer to, I think it’s the way in which I work that accomplishes this as well as the material of clay itself and its origin for utility in the home and hearth.  Further my work takes on an anthropomorphic quality when they are arranged together and I play with this in the ways in which they are displayed as finished work. 

Obi: Is there a gender aspect to your work? Do you find your work to be particularly feminine? Is it insightful at all to investigate your work this way?

Alissa: I don’t think my work looks particularly feminine or masculine.  I’d like to think that it is simply gender neutral?  Would you assume that Rothko’s rectangular color fields are associated with a specific gender?  Perhaps his works are masculine because his most notable works were boxes and rectangles of intense color and he was a man?  Arguably in this vein, I suppose my works would become feminine because they have soft edges and tend to have a lot of circles which could relate to the female and reproduction. But, if you’re asking if a man or woman made the sculpture – the abstract forms and color pallet don’t make it easy to identify the sex of the maker –  however the obsessiveness and process I use to make the work could most likely demonstrate that the maker was likely a woman.  But in all honesty, I can’t say that it’s especially relevant to me at the moment.

I have a lot in common with Scott Greenwalt but I am not exactly sure what. Sure I can make lists, like, well, we both like beer, a lot, we both make art, a lot, we are the same age, pretty much…and on, but something deeper, or maybe more shallow. Anyway, he is a total bro who basically lives right down the street from me in Oakland and its just wierd we haven’t met yet. He’s got a lot going on…let me let him tell you about it. -obi

Obi: Where does this latest work come from? While you have always worked with images of the body from inside and out, this new work seems particularly in transformation…not only like writhing flesh but from a more subtle use of paint to a more graphic…is that at all right?

Scott: Basically, my work is rooted in a lengthy process of weeding through strange visions in my mind, attempting to render these visions, failing, eliminating problem elements, meditating on the direction of the painting, then implementing the ideas in an obsessed trance-like state. Rinse and repeat. Transformation is an apt word to describe the work. I think that my entire approach to painting, as well as what I depict is about some kind of metaphysical change. I think of them as glimpses at another dimension of time and space where things are folding in on themselves.

Obi: You are in a bunch of shows right now. What’s going on? When was the last time you had a solo show and how does it differ now?

Scott: 2010 has, thankfully, been a very busy year for me. There is a momentum that has been building, and I am just running with it. Moving back to Oakland this summer has had a lot to do with that, I think. My new studio and the art community here are incredibly inspiring. My last solo show was at Gallery BellJar in April of this year. That show marked an important moment where my work began to take on new qualities that I have expanded upon for the show at Hotel Biron that opens Thursday, October 14th. I think that the major difference is that the subject matter now is concerned more with a living, breathing phenomenon, rather than archeological specimens discovered long after mutation occurred.

Obi: Describe your road to becoming an artist. How has Scott Greenwalt become Scott Greenwalt? Who was your biggest influence?

Scott: It’s a long story. In a nutshell, I just never really knew what else to do with myself. I took a lot of art classes in high school, because it was easier for me than academia. I just kept that up until I wound up with an MFA. Then I got a job that I hated for ten years, all the while working on art at home during the evenings, trying to figure out what I really wanted to say as an artist. Then I flipped out, quit my soul-sucking big money job and started showing my work. That was three years ago.

Nailing one primary influence is hard. I would have to say that it is a three-way tie between Francis Bacon, Philip Guston and Hieronymus Bosch in terms of aesthetics. There are hundreds of other artists, film makers, musicians and writers whose work has had a hand in forming who I am and how I see the world. I must say that it was Philip Guston’s decision to trust his personal instincts and ignore what the art world expected from him that has been the most significant guiding principle of my practice.

You may remember Dan from around the Oakland art and music scene. The man is an institution, at least in my mind. If you want to learn more about him type his name into the search bar at right and see the glorious history. In any case, Dan moved away last year with his wife Lexa Walsh, to Portland, City of Dreams. This show marks a remarkable homecoming for him and his particular flavor of fun, wild, beautiful and wonderous art. I shot the pics below on a recent sojourn through Portland where I stopped and stormed into his basement studio. -obi

Dan Nelson’s recent works illustrate 40 of the fragments of Blaise Pascal. In his words: “They are all done with red, grey, and black paper, and will afford you ample opportunity to contemplate death, infinity, passion, God, Jesus, knowledge, caprice, and futility whilst masticating cheese and partaking of the grape. I’ve been working on these images and thinking about Pascal for almost 4 years, and think this is my best artwork yet. I hope to see you there.”

The Reception is this Saturday evening at The Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery. 1165 65th Street. Oakland. California

from Wikipedia:

Pascal’s most influential theological work, referred to posthumously as the Pensées (“Thoughts”), was not completed before his death. It was to have been a sustained and coherent examination and defense of the Christian faith, with the original title Apologie de la religion Chrétienne (“Defense of the Christian Religion”). What was found upon sifting through his personal items after his death were numerous scraps of paper with isolated thoughts, grouped in a tentative, but telling, order. The first version of the detached notes appeared in print as a book in 1670 titled Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion, et sur quelques autres sujets (“Thoughts of M. Pascal on religion, and on some other subjects”) and soon thereafter became a classic. One of the Apologie’s main strategies was to use the contradictory philosophies of skepticism and stoicism, personalized by Montaigne on one hand, and Epictetus on the other, in order to bring the unbeliever to such despair and confusion that he would embrace God. This strategy was deemed quite hazardous by Pierre Nicole, Antoine Arnauld and other friends and scholars of Port-Royal, who were concerned that these fragmentary “thoughts” might lead to skepticism rather than to piety. Henceforth, they concealed the skeptical pieces and modified some of the rest, lest King or Church should take offense[30] for at that time the persecution of Port-Royal had ceased, and the editors were not interested in a renewal of controversy. Not until the nineteenth century were the Pensées published in their full and authentic text.

Pascal’s Pensées is widely considered to be a masterpiece, and a landmark in French prose. When commenting on one particular section (Thought #72), Sainte-Beuve praised it as the finest pages in the French language.[31] Will Durant, in his 11-volume, comprehensive The Story of Civilization series, hailed it as “the most eloquent book in French prose.”[32] In Pensées, Pascal surveys several philosophical paradoxes: infinity and nothing, faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, meaning and vanity—seemingly arriving at no definitive conclusions besides humility, ignorance, and grace. Rolling these into one he develops Pascal’s Wager.

Learn more about Dan Nelson’s artwork at his art project website

Kevin Clarke runs an excellent art space in North Oakland called Macarthur b Arthur. I visited him about a month ago when he asked me if I wanted to talk about the possibility of putting a show together. A few weeks later, here we are…Graphite! will premier oct.1, First Friday. Below, you can see him working on his piece for the show which will showcase artists’ work in Graphite. Click on the link on the right to find out more about the Graphite show. Below, Kevin explains the history of the Gallery. 

Obi: How did you come into this great space? 

Kevin: I had been looking for another place to do a gallery where I could live and curate shows for about a year. I had moved to Berkeley from San Francisco to focus on my own work but missed the community one is exposed to when living in a venue for visual art. I started a space in San Francisco called Million Fishes 7 years ago (Million Fishes has 16 resident artists living in at any one time) and really enjoyed living in a gallery and collaborating with artists but I needed a break to focus on my own work. After I felt sufficiently grounded in my own practices I got the jones for community and dialogue that comes from giving people the opportunity to show work. I found the space on Craiglist, but it needed a lot of love. MacArthur b arthur is also my home. I live in the back of the gallery and have my painting studio there as well. I love inviting people off the street inside when they are looking through the windows. It makes it easy to not separate art from life.

Obi: So, the Big Question: When and How did you come up with the great name, Macarthur B arthur?
Kevin: There are webs infrastructure funneling traffic and designating space all around Oakland like the MacArthur Freeway interchange casting shadows in my backyard, MacArthur BART around the corner, and MacArthur boulevard, a street level artery linking one end of Oakland to the other. All these places have the same name without a face, a forgotten history that is taken for granted as here, there, everywhere – oakland. I like the institutional ambiguity of the word MacArthur.
And Bea Arthur was a great gal.Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like Bea Arthur? 
Familiar and foreign it is a concrete anachronism combining place, identity, performance and art.MacArthur b arthur is generally here, as a home, and a venue, but specifically out there, not fitting neatly into the gallery category. It’s about the community created by pigment and light, and Bart. It’s about words and movement. It’s Dada.

Obi: At the corner of [Martin Luther King] and 40th, you are on the Urban Frontier. Between North Oakland and Downtown Oakland, you have a unique perspective on the Oakland Art scene. What do you think about it in general? What are your favorite galleries and what “scene” do you most identify with?
Kevin: The Oakland art scene is incredibly inspiring. There are so many motivated, talented young artists and curators to discuss ideas and projects with. Right now I feel like I could do this for ever. I love what’s happening at Royal NoneSuch, WE Artspace, and Sight School. I’ve developed a close relationship with the Co-Curators of Royal NoneSuch since I started MacArthur b arthur. Elizabeth Bernstein and Carrie Hott are two of the most interesting and inspiring artist/curators I’ve ever met.

I’m not sure what scene I identify with. I know I’m more interested in the spaces that are taking risks to show work that is not necessarily pretty, wont necessarily sell, and makes me think, hard.


If you follow this blog, you probably have seen a bit of Matt Decker over the years. I am not jut a client of the Matt Decker Fan Club I may also be the president. I love the new whale painting. He’s got these great little paintings for sale all over the place too, that get sold as soon as he makes ’em, so run on in to get yours now before he gets tired of doing them. He’s got a great red felt pool table now also. Premium Tattoo, 4130 Broadway. Oakland. (510) 922-8901


  • Moises Aragon