Archive for the ‘EXHIBITS/REVIEWS’ Category

Alexi Torres

David Allen Peters

David Maxim

Ross Bonfonti

James Niel

Hugo Lugo

Farnaz Shadravan


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


Oakland Art Mumur, as published in the East Bay Express, 04-18-12

-Obi Kaufmann

Weekly Art Picks – Mercury 20, as Published in East Bay Express. – Obi Kaufmann

JoAnn Ugolini at Barbara Anderson Gallery, Berkeley 

The creative process is an elusive thing that most write off as either you get it or you don’t. Yet scratch the surface and even the most mysterious artistic decisions are revealed as cogent solutions to deep aesthetic inquiry. Such is the case with these three artists, all of whom currently have art up now in Berkeley.

1. Obi: In this show you juxtopose your collage work with your paintings – how do you reconcile the two modes of working? What are the commonalities, in your mind, between the two?

JoAnn Ugolini: My work is always focused on composition – no matter what medium I’m working in. I was educated in a classical modern painting tradition. To me that means using color or line or shape to move the eye everywhere, in and out, from corner to corner, until it reaches a kind of harmony. When I paint, movement also comes through brush strokes, and the abstract shapes gather and then are interrupted. When I work with collage, the tearing away of paper takes the place of the brush stroke. The tearing is intention and movement. There is also the interference of the expected in collage that occurs by putting together two shapes that seemingly have no relation to one another. It’s the same in painting. Positive and negative space take turns changing places. The composition is allowed to create itself. The movement coalesces on its own.

In Piazza, at Barbara Anderson Gallery (2243 Fifth St., 510-848-3822,, runs through April 14.

2. Obi: Do you consider yourself a maker of images at all? Is there an imagined, internal conversation with your viewers      about the nature of the evocation within the picture plane?

Jenny Bloomfield: I may consider myself a maker of images within a series called Destination Road. I would like to refer to them specifically. One desire within this series is to connect my fascination with time, experience and memory with other people’s experiences of memory and time. The paintings bring to mind old photographs, and within this emotional common ground, with the artist’s “hand” being somewhat hidden, the viewer is more free to make their own association. The question of the ‘imagined internal conversation with the viewer’ is interesting, because when I think about making          these works, I recognize something that is there that I have not until now defined: the ‘conversation’, which is somewhat akin to the experience of meeting someone in your dreams who is a complete stranger, unlike anyone you have ever met before, who surprises you with their ideas…yet presumably you made them up!

Terrain, along with the work of Christel Dillbohner and Danae Mattes, runs through April 1 at the Berkeley Art Center (1275 Walnut St., 510-644-6893,

3. Obi: As far as I can tell, you employ three distinct processes to create your photographs, How did you decide which process to use for what image?

Johnna Arnold: The exhibit is in commemoration of Traywick’s fifteen-year anniversary. All of my work in this mini-retrospective is photo-based in process and freeway-oriented in subject matter. The earliest photos are mural-sized triptychs in which I enlarged details that I captured along the freeway. The second group, Freeway Conglomerations, are also photos taken from the freeway,but these are merged together in an attempt to unite the visual fragments we glimpse as we drive.  In my newest work I’m out of the car, taking photos with a large-format camera and putting myself in the frame to show my relationship with these inhospitable, man-made landscapes. In all of these works, I’m drawn to studying these amazing structures that were built to help us get to places we want to go; to me, freeways are an in-between time and place that symbolize the importance we continually place on reaching our destination.

Beyond the Lens, along with the works of Marco Breuer and Lothar Osterburg, runs through March 31 at Traywick Contemporary (895 Colusa Ave., 510-527-1214,

Erica puts the whole thing together. Her shop is The Rare Bird. Piedmont Ave Art Walk happens every Third Thursday of the month. She is doing the work of a small army.

I am a sucker for the brilliant and simple merchandising at The Rare Bird. The jewelry-art of Katie Evans.

I love plein aire works from the early 20th century. above: Harry Emerson Lewis, Solitude, 1905.  From the collection of Page Yarwood, on display at Cafe Crush (3943 Piedmont Ave. Oakland) show runs through April 19th.

Steve Robinson, owner of Lireille, displaying his work to an admirer.

Gaylords coffee shop show featuring work by Jackie Im and Aaron Harbour

Jenn Shifflett, as published in the East Bay Express, by Obi Kaufmann

click to enlarge.

From left to right, Anne Subercaseaux, “Refl XXVIII” (detail) oil on canvas. Christina Corfield, “The Body Electric” still from video. Marcos Lafarga “Quality not Quantity” (detail) ink and graphite on paper. pictures courtesy the artists.  

The three artists questioned here, all of whom have terrific shows up now in different Oakland galleries, approach their work from vastly different places. Perhaps the only thing they do have in common is a strong sense of graphic style. I asked them each a single question targeted to their specific show.

1. Anne Subercaseaux presents Shadow and Structure, a series of paintings of the Bay Bridge based on photographs, along with the photographs of Catherine Roberts Leach at Slate Gallery. Show runs through April 28.

Obi: Where did the inspiration come from to produce paintings based on photographs of the Bay Bridge?

Anne Subercaseaux: Paintings from the Reflections: on Crossing series were inspired from commute trips I made across the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge for several years. While driving across the span, I observed the lights and shadows cast from beams and cables onto the pavement surface. The patterns and reflections became abstract compositions, which when studied in closer proximity, allowed me to focus on detail areas within a broader view. The play of light in cast patterns on the roadway, or the reflections of vertical cables onto a metallic car surface presented geometric refractions. In contrast to the frenetic traffic of the commute hour, painting these compositions allows a very different experience – finding abstractions to explore in new dimensions, and discovering and working with poetic and ethereal imagery.

2. Christina Corfield presents Follies of the Digital Arcade, a multimedia exhibition at Johannson Projects. Show runs through March 17.

Obi: This is your second show at Johansson Projects. How does this show, The Follies of the Digital Arcade, contrast with 2010’s The Velveteen Order? Is this show somehow a sequel to that show?

Christina Corfield: Since The Velveteen Order my work has increasingly focused on the intersections of how we use historical fiction to engage with issues such as the gendering of power, personal responsibility within national/ patriotic narratives and how we use technology in popular entertainment to visually process our daily experiences.

Whereas my new show isn’t a direct sequel to the work featured in The Velveteen Order, it expands those ideas as well as expands my practice from purely video work to including writing and drawing.

The biggest similarity between the shows is the theme of purposeful myth creation. Electricity had to be ‘sold’ to the public in many ways (some horrifying and some enchanting) that would lead to a belief in the force as both scientifically controllable while also attractively unknowable. This push and pull of desire is what fuels any good myth – it offers something dangerously within reach, yet ultimately unattainable.

3. Marcos Lafarga presents New Works by Marcos LaFarga, a series of new paintings at Sticks and Stones Gallery. Show runs through March 30.

Obi: Your compositions clearly rely on text as much as they do pictorial content, and yet your text is pictorial content as well. Can you describe the relationship between text, font and image in your work?

Resolving the relationship between text and image is one of the fundamental objectives in my work. I do treat the text and typography in my art as image. Illustrating type is very exciting and fun for me. I take pride in crafting the words and in my drawings the text is the main focus. A big challenge for me is combining the painterly figurative aspect with the clean graphic typographic aspects and making it cohesive. When I’m successful in combining these elements I think it’s true representation of my style, voice and point of view.

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.

above, pictured, Tara Tucker at Rena Bransten Gallery, lower left, David Huffman at Patricia Sweetow and lower right, the juxtapositions of Todd Hido at Stephen Wirtz.

The East Bay’s own Tara Tucker stole the whole scene tonight with her third show at Rena Bransten – and frankly, I think it was her best. The work is loose and open, she uses natural linens, pillow-like structures and other non-conventional media as ground for her visionary illustration. Her bears and other spirit-affinities call to me (as they should call to everyone) in a kind of desperate longing for relationship – an aesthetic ecosystem that seems awfully relevant right now. I was so glad to find her because I was getting scared, as I guess I do so often when I walk around the really expensive art – scared of being bored to death. There are many gems though: Patricia Sweetow is hosting the work of painter David Huffman, and that is lose-yourself worthy painting and I am always happy to lose myself. The other big surprise was Todd Hido‘s photography at Stephen Wirtz – it is really rare that I get dumb in front of photography but this show is epic, or should I say Epic! with a capital E and some unnecessary punctuation… Silvery nostalgia and strange juxtapositions make for an experience that is impenetrable yet familiar.

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. 

Pop-up hood is rocking Old Oakland these days. It truly has revolutionized the experience of strolling through those great old buildings near 9th and Broadway. Where just a month ago there were empty store fronts and struggling office-spaces, now brightly merchandised shops display local crafts –  a brilliant turn around full of love and hope.

Above, left,  Papa Llama’s awesome dreamcatchers…yes, I like dreamcatchers (at least awesome ones like these) at Piper and John General Goods, 465 9th Street. Above, right, Scott Macleod’s amazing boat at Holidayland in Marion and Rose’s Workshop, next door.

Some of the talented ladies of Pop-Up Hood. Left, Sarah Swell and Kate Ellen of Crown Nine at 461 A 9th Street. Then right, Alli and Sarah Filley, on of the co-counders of Pop-Up Hood.

Check out this great video documentary by Eva Kolenko that tells the whole story. The grand opening party was last night, so get down to Old Oakland and explore all the goods.

above, floor mural of “Thunderman” and candlelit installation of THUNDERBIRD, the debut of over twenty new paintings by Obi Kaufmann at Victorian Rat Gallery, Oakland, California, 11/19/11

Thunderbird opens this evening.

Victorian Rat Gallery, 3758 Manila Ave, Oakland California 94609


Show dates: 11.19.11 through 12.18.11

ARTIST RECEPTION: Saturday 11.19.11, 6pm to 9pm

“…Painting in a cave by candlelight…”

 Victorian Rat Gallery is proud to present the paintings of Obi Kaufmann in a solo show entitled THUNDERBIRD. After recent sold-out exhibits in both Oakland and Seattle, and on the heels of last year’s popular WARFLOWER at San Francisco’s Five Points Art House, Kaufmann brings his most savage paintings to date back home to North Oakland.

In THUNDERBIRD, Kaufmann continues his exploration of what he calls The Gothic Nouveau, or the romanticizing of figurative archetypes into a graphic language of expressionist motifs and graffiti-like illustration.  DeWitt Cheng, while reviewing Kaufmann’s work in 2010 for, called it “meditational and (serving a) ritual function,” while Todd Kerr, in the Berkeley Times, said that Kaufmann’s paintings are “primal and pure…could it get any more real?” When confronting the sometimes dark imagery of Kaufmann’s work, the writer known as RWM said “there is injury there, but also a connection with the tormentors.”

Victorian Rat Gallery is run by husband and wife David Seiler and Brianna Brandow-Seiler. They invite you to join them for the candle-lit reception of THUNDERBIRD on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 6pm.

“The Thunderbird paintings, of course, come from my own vision of the mythic figure – the form and bodily proportion as a thought-construct, a creative landscape inhabited by non-personalities who exist in a sexless voice, a genderless place. I exercise a ton of graphic license with the model and insist the rendered personality only exist in the picture plane – to exist in only a kind of non-narrative dream-place; the human figure itself, as its own landscape, ornamented with textual perifera that serves, specifically, to both inform and distract.” – Obi Kaufmann, 2011.


  • Moises Aragon