Archive for the ‘CHOICE WORKS’ Category




003From left, artists – Patricia Gillespie, Mario Navasero, John Casey and Scott Greenwalt


artist, Nathaniel Parsons


artist, Alison Tharp


artist, Lexa Walsh


artist, Scott Greenwalt


artist, Ryan McJunkin


artist, Matt Decker


artist, Michael McConnell


artist, Marcos Lafarga


artist, Hunter Mack


artist, Wythe Bowart


artist, Brett Baumgart & Tyler


artist, Martin Webb


artist, Daniel Healey


artists, Emily Coker and David Polka


artist, Brük Dunbar


artist, Joseph Kowalczyk


artist, Alison OK Frost and Mary Mortimer


artist, Lauren Napolitano


Artist, Matt Decker, Hilary Decker and artist, Danielle Silva


from left, Oona, artist, Lucien Shapiro, Lauren Napolitano, Dave Higgins and Patricia Gillespie

Some artists I did not get good (or at least adequate) pictures of last night, but who were in attendance: Heidi Cregge, David Seiler, Kelly Monson,  Jon Carling, Dan Nelson, Thomas Christopher Haag, Jack Eastgate and Aaron Petersen

Note from Obi

It feels like a family: the assembly,  this crew, this quilt of brilliant local art. We been doing this for years – different venues, different faces, sure, but  many of these artists I’ve been representing for years, and know better than I know certain legs of my own family. The result? a warm vibe, an accepting space, an invented family, a buzz that belies the alcohol stupor we all stumble around in looking for our pens and paper. We used to do it every week. Perhaps you remember – now, we will do it once a season. The above represents some snapshots I took with last night, at our Springtime event. Special thanks to Mua for housing this event. If you are an artist, living and working in Oakland and want to be part of this, all you need to do is be in my face and (of course) be serious about your art. email me at,

follow my other adventures at & my own art at

instagram @coyotethunder

Bo Bartlett

Manuel Neri

Yoskay Yamamoto (left), Jenny Morgan (right)

Odd Nerdrum


Tim Etchells

Stephen De Staebler

Jane Rosen

Narangkar Glover

Alex Katz

Daniel Fila, Alex Yanes & Raymond Adrian

Jack Fischer

Elaine Bradford (left), Michael Gregory (right)

Nicholas Africano


10. (above, left) Mary Curtis Ratcliff at Mercury 20

Ratclliff’s multimedia show skates a varied line between media and style – always doing it with fun and confidence.

9. (above, right) Tiffany Schmierer at Roscoe Ceramic Gallery

Shmierer’s crowded ceramic landscapes evoke an impossible, dream-space of textures and color – like a tactile video game set.

8. Irwin Luckman at Hatch Gallery 

Luckman’s monument models depict mammoth, public works where people could gather – then, simply through the organic design of the monuments themselves, collectively bliss out.

7. Beili Liu at Vessel

Liu’s bold installation conjures a kind of alchemy where fragility and form dance in a weightless dream of metaphysical resonance.

6. Jenn Shifflett at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

Shifflett is a painter’s painter – the depth she attains with her subjectless, ethereal paintings is a sheer joy to ponder.

picture courtesy of the Chris Vogel.

5. Chris Vogel at FM

Vogel’s immaculate graphic sensibility feeds these gorgeous objects with a refined and polished novelty.

4. Sonja Hinrichsen and Chris Treggiari at Krowswork

Video artist Hinrichsen and sculptor Treggiari collaborate to build a new vision of life around the Bay. In a kind of Plato’s Cave, shadows dance, illuminated by atmospheric video – a new myth and a new history to describe a place at once so foreign and so familiar.

3. Skinner and Alex Pardee at Zero Friends 

Skinner, at right, Pictured with me, Obi Kaufmann. Skinner is one of my favorites. I love his humor, his style – all of it. I am so glad to see Zero Friends open. I got Skinner’s new book and it kicks ass.

2. (above, right) Filth Grime, with 4 others, at Telegraph

The floor to ceiling art of five very talented street artists makes up the first show at Telegraph. Seems timely and artistically new in an age of so much political dialogue in our fair city.

1.  (above, left) Christina Corfield at Johansson Projects

Corfield’s work does nothing to assuage our technological anxiety of the massive paradigm shifts involved with becoming a digital world – fortunately she can paint a picture like nobody’s business.

Below are my choices for the ten best art shows of 2011 in the City of Oakland and its art spaces. I tend like work that is illustration-based and site-specifically resonant. Most of the exhibits below involve the community somehow, either by direct engagement or by challenging aesthetic conventions and all of it somehow deals with Beauty, as a formal and stylistic concept. I have tried to choose galleries and art spaces that are off the main drag, although many Murmur Galleries are honored. I have also excluded all (except for one, see below) of the shows I was personally involved in. Cheers. Happy New Year. Here’s to 2012! – Obi Kaufmann

10. David Gregory Wallace at Krowswork “This Means War is Personal”

I applaud Jasmine Morrhead and her continued efforts to present a different kind of gallery experience for the Art Murmur crowd. This show blew me away with its simple display and it complex narrative. War is a very difficult subject to touch with out being preachy, Wallace does it with a resonant sensitivity that is gorgeously transformative.

9. Alison Tharp at Peter Thomas, “Short Walks on the Beach”

Alternative art spaces are rad. Alison showing in the shop she works at reminds me of Pecker‘s art show from the movie, remember? It’s Fun, with a capital F. Lovely, colorful, disarming, beautifully imaginative and superbly rendered…I am describing Alison’s art and I guess, her. Oh, and crap, broke my first rule, this place is in Berkeley, right?

above, Alison Tharp

8. Nathaniel Parsons at The Hive “Season’s Over”

Nathaniel Parsons has the singular ability to transform a space into a pitch-perfect environment full of a particular brand of nostalgia for an Americana that has yet to exist. His blend of craft and formal composition is inviting and warm yet always challenging and a little bit painful.

7. Jon Carling at Pretty Penny “Magic Country”

The clear voice emitting from Jon Carling’s illustrations is so pure and intense that the drawings become kind-of exercises for the fairy tale dreams of youth we are collectively starving without. From the statement, “Guiding spirits and misleading tricksters weaving together intuitions and instinct to help humans, animals and plants form the ideal future.  Imagining the Ether as forms and figures, rather than an unknowable mist.” He takes you there and you are proud to go.

6. Christopher Thomas Haag and Martin Webb at the Compound Gallery “Making the Road by Walking”

These two seemingly disparate young artists came together seemlessly in this show that presented a prolific amount of art, all strikingly consistent in theme and timbre. Haag, an artist who has made great waves this year with a bevy of colorful murals on Piedmont Avenue, works with free-form hieroglyphs that are shockingly original in their graphic essence and freedom. Webb, an artist who uses political allusions to infuse his texture-rich paintings with a subtext that is rarely found in contemporary East Bay galleries, meets Haag half way in this amazing confluence of talent.

Martin Webb and Christopher Thomas Haag at the Compound in North Oakland 

5. David Seiler at Zza’s “California Dreaming”

I did break one of my rules by putting David Seiler’s show on this list, after all I did organize this show, but you know what, it is exactly the kind of show I always want to see: technically masterful with an intense energy that if was containable, could supply all the world’s energy needs for a hundred years. Seiler’s use of classical figuration and indigenous reference is blended together in a way never seen before, nor could ever be again.

4. Cyrus Tilton at Vessel “The Cycle”

The horror of those millions of insects moving as a parable for the overpopulation of the world is burned in my mind. Lonnie Lee has built a wonderful little gallery on 25th Street this year by presenting show after show of brilliantly executed exhibits and this one tops my list. Tilton’s work is preternaturally tremendous – his sculpted figures are full of a kind of animus, a spirit of prana, where we could hardly be surprised if they moved and lived on their own after his touch.

Cyrus Tilton

3. Steven Barich at Branch “Zen with a Kickstand”

Steven Barich continues his inquiry into wisdom and truth in a dramatic, straightforward and refreshing manner in this deceptively simple, beautifully arranged collection. With the hand of a master draftsman, Barich employs simple media to meditate on philosophy and the value of, well, value. Although we lost Branch Gallery this year, Kerri Johnson and team continues to fight the good fight with their BAYVAN project.

2. Yvette Molina and Michael Meyers at Johannsson Projects “Circle Saints”

As if touched by some divine energy, the subtle wave of beauty that exude from these works left me feeling like I had just heard a violin for the first time. Molina’s paintings on glass of natural forms, rot and growth touched something deep and metabolic in some shadow piece of my psyche – an ancient piece of a puzzle that was not yet completed, until snap! there it is. Add to that, the wonder of Meyer’s monuments in wood that defy conventional Newtonian ways and you have one of the best looking gallery presentations in the world, ever.

1. John Casey and Friends at Swarm “Tall Tales”

No artist I have ever met is as true to his own inner vision as is our own John Casey. Lucky for us, his vision has room for all of us – in this epic show he herded 60+ colleagues and did a collaborative drawing with each of them. This wasn’t just any collection of folks with a pencil, mind you, but a roster of brilliant talent that read like a Who’s Who of Bay Area artists. Then, from each, he was somehow able to invoke the signature motif from us all (yes, okay I was one of the artists – I broke the rule again, sue me) to present a surreally perfect snapshot of Art. now. here. That’s John though – a pillar of this strange little community…we were all dying to give him our best. The show didn’t end there, he also presented an entire body of new work that he made in collaboration with his writer-wife, Mary Kalin-Casey, entitled “Call and Response.” This series offered us an inspiringly intimate view into the creative process of a very public artist, by 1) merely switching to pencil from his signature ink-based work and 2) offering an amazingly candid vista of an artist with his wife, and equally as interesting of course, a writer with her husband. Juxtapose all that with an honorably mentioned Jake Watling “Four Directions” in the project space at Swarm Gallery and you have my, hands down, choice for the very best Oakland had to offer in 2011 art.

John and Mary and their little boat, and hat too. 

Nathan Goodman at FM.

Goodman invents a beautiful, microcosmic world where simple robots seem to vie for life and struggle with their own clanky machinations. The world does not concern itself so much with refinements as it does with its own formal practicality. The name of the show is In Electric Slumber, which resonates to me as a reference to how we can never turn off, or power down the modern world, even when we sleep.

Cyrus Tilton at Vessel. photographed with permission.

The large installation that fills the gallery space is a kinetic work that is successful, even without the political denotation in the artist’s statement, maybe even in spite of it. Tilton’s vision is full of proportion and harmony and his rendered figures and fields are almost magnetically appealing.

Wayne Armstrong at Manna Gallery. Left. Stephen Whisler at Chandra Cerrito. Right.

Part of the artist-run Manna Gallery, Wayne Armstrong exhibits a series called Botanica Artiphonius, in which he imagines a world where artists have designed the plants instead of nature. Armstrong’s watercolors are stunningly realized. Watercolor is medium that is so often trapped in provincialism, when in the hands of a talented illustrator, it can be so much more.

Stephen Whisler at Chandra Cerrito. I’m actually not sure if David Ireland made these pieces of Stephen did. The statement was kind of ambiguous. I love this piece though. Probably most of all, the title: “A couple of pages from Ulysses soaked in my last cup of coffee.”

Michael Steffen at FM studios.

I met Michael while he was gallery sitting at FM. His oil painting landscapes remind me of photographs shot through hard-focused lenses that oscillate between foregrounds of hyper detail and distast, empty horizons.

Charlie Milgrim at Mercury20.

Milgrim is one of those artists who lives in a kind of Platonic, parallel universe of pure ideas and immaculate, artistic execution. I don’t need to write about his work: the feelings, the implications, the messages, it is all there and it is great.

The galleries around 23rd and Telegraph are now open on Saturday afternoons. Being a fan of local art and not the stifling throngs that make up the First Friday crowd, I find that it is definitely the time to actually be able to appreciate the objects and environments on display. To be chosen as one of SWEE(t)ART Picks, the piece needs to exemplify exactly the point I believe the artist is trying to make in the context of the larger body of exhibited work. I only pick one piece per artist per show. In the case of a group show, I pick the piece that gets to the heart of the theme of the particular curation. I am very proud of Oakland art right now and the endless hours of labor and love that artists, curators and gallerists have put into making this thing happen every month has never been more readily apparent. The work is beautiful and the themes are real, visceral and alive…I believe the work below, as stunningly disparate as it is as a whole from one to the next, represents the very best of Oakland art today.  –Obi Kaufmann

Below are my own pictures, with links to more information about the work. click on the images to enlarge.

David Gregory Wallace at Krowswork

Art Moura at FM

Pamela Merory Dernham at Vessel, photographed with permission

Tabitha Soren at Johansson Projects

Cathy Cunningham-Little at Chandra Cerrito

Joseph Kowalczyk at FM (studio view)

Julie Alvarado at Mercury 20


  • Moises Aragon