Archive for the ‘SWEE(t)ART ARTISTS’ Category

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. 

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.

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

It has been two months already since Live Art Wednesday went on Hiatus. LAW was always a really good time. September 2010 through June 2011. I always took a bunch of pictures of the work made and of the artists making the work. It always felt like friends gathering to make work together. Levende, the venue where it was held in Old Oakland is gone and now Live Art Wednesdays is too. If you want to see the archive of pictures you are going to need to become my friend on facebook, Obi Kaufmann. Here are some pictures that I just found in my phone of one random LAW in mid-April. Nice portraits of some of my favorite local talent. I have included links to their websites too and mentioned a little bit of what they are up to.

Alison O.K. Frost Alison’s drawing is featured in this month’s ART IN A BOX, subscription service through the Compound Gallery.

Michael McConnell Michael just had a well received show at Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Francisco.

Brian Caraway just had a great show at We Gallery in Oakland

Aaron Petersen just had an awesome show at Braunstein/Quay as well.

Maya Kabat is about to have a show of drawings at Victorian Rat Gallery in Oakland.

Steven Barich was recently interviewed here at Swee(t)Art in conjunction with his show at Branch Gallery.

Nathaniel Parsons had a great show at Levende itself a few months back. He also recently performed at SOEX in the city.

Live Art Wednesdays.

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

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…

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

I am very pleased to be included in the Dia de los Muertos show at Victoria Rat in North Oakland. Curators/Artists/Fiances Brianna Brianna Brandow and David Seiler transformed their garage into a very tidy exhibition space and the quality of work the wrangled into this current show is stunning. The show makes reference to David’s own Mexican heritage and the collected work all feels vaguely religious in iconography if not at least reverential.

The space will be open twice more to celebrate the opening: this Friday and Saturday night. The location is at 3758 Manila in Oakland. The hours are six pm to nine pm and the artists involved are: David Seiler, Randy Noborikawa, Deja Garcia, Matt Decker, Brianna Brandow, Anthony Chase, Obi Kaufmann.

artist: Deja Garcia

collaborative work by Randy Noborikawa (left) and David Seiler (right)


Matt Decker offers another of his painstakingly lyrical compositions. Matt Decker is available for commission.

Yes, this is my work. “Your Family will Live forever.” Obi Kaufmann.

Randy Noborikawa

David Seiler and Brianna Brandow in front of Victorian Rat.

originally published in the Berkeley Times 10.21.2010

Brian Caraway and I have, what is becoming a long history of working together. Type in his name in the search bar on the right to explore our history. His new work is electrifying and his show at the Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery, entitled “I HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN THE NAME OF THE THING I AM LOOKING AT” opens on October 30th. -obi

Obi: How has your experience been since school? I have seen you travel down a few aesthetic paths since…can you walk me through it from your perspective?

Brian: My experience since school, with respect to my art practice, has been a pretty steady climb. Don’t get me wrong, there was a pretty serious period where I did nothing but look. The climax that I experienced that I like to call my thesis work left me completely exhausted. I could do nothing but look. There is a lot of thinking and making in art school. A lot of talking, and reflecting on what one has looked at, but not so much looking for me—well, not without being told what it is I should be looking at. Granted, the things I was told to look at were, and are, pretty amazing. But the cleansing for me was looking at the things that I wanted to look at on my own accord. When that period passed I was able to hit the studio with double the power. I feel like some of the strides that I have taken post school are the longest, and the strongest yet.

Brian con’t…

As far as the aesthetic path I find myself traveling down (or paths as you have it) is a broad swath, but a singular swath at that. I entered art school making stylized landscape paintings, when I finished I was constructing minimal abstractions. One could argue that as separate aesthetic universes, but that isn’t the case for me. I like to think that the style of work I was producing before school was distilled down to a pure, clean practice. I came away making compositions out of the favorite elements of the paintings without the landscape part. The landscape served as a spiritual element to those paintings, but that is a different story for a different interview. The transition that took place at Mills College was profound, and I feel grateful for the refinement that has occurred. In addition to the painting come mixed-media fabrications, as well as site-specific installations, which I like to consider as site-specific experiences that I provide to the viewer.

Obi: You are having a show at the Drawing Gallery this month. I hate to put you on the spot, but I am going to: how do you reconcile your work as drawing? Sure you have some mark making but the string? Is it solely related based on the linear element?

Brian: Good question(s), thank you, this is just the spot that I should be put on right now. Everything I do is drawing; or based on drawing. I am not trying to be a joker by saying this, but it is true. Weather I lay down paint, or ink, or pencil, or pastel, or light, or string it is all done with the same attention to the quality of that line. The aesthetic path that I find myself on began with radio broadcast towers. Those towers ceased to be towers and became parallel lines. Some of the early experimentation with parallel lines was in the form of fluorescent light bulbs (with which I found some fantastic success). However, in all honesty, that feeling of success came too quick. It wasn’t enough for me. The refinement continued to produce linear compositions of string that are not unlike mini blinds turned on their side. At its foundation everything is based on the linear element. As I lay out the string into its parallel fashion like I plan to in the Drawing Gallery the dialog extends beyond the two dimensional realm and breaks into the third dimension—hopefully carrying the experience into the next dimension.

Obi: How would you classify you work? Would you? Op art? Minimalist art? It is so refreshing to see someone relevant and working who is not rendering and also, who is not working abstractly. I don’t think of your work as abstract, do you?

Brian: I am proud to classify my work as Minimal (Hard Edge Minimalism if I might be so bold). Before me are some fantastic painters that have worked in this fashion, and I hope to someday be lumped in there as a new voice along a well-trodden path. I do tend to make things that create optical friction however, I would not place myself into the category of Op Art—well, not yet at least—hard to see, the future is. I like to think of my work as abstraction, but am still looking for clarification in this sense. I feel that it is abstract, but with such attention to edge and frequency, can it be abstract? An abstraction of an idea of pattern perhaps. Does that make it abstraction? That is my question to you Obi.

I think it does.


Dia De Los Muertos, Group Art Show.

Victorian Rat : 3758 Manila Ave. Oakland @ MacArthur behind Kaiser

Opening Dates:
Saturday 10/23 6 – 9pm
Saturday 10/30 6 – 9pm (feel free to come in costume!)
Tuesday 11/02 9 – 10pm
by appointment call: 916 -524 -2454

Artists include:
David Seiler
Randy Noborikawa
Deja Garcia
Matt Decker
Brianna Brandow
Anthony Chase
Obi Kaufmann

Celebrating life, death and art at Victorian Rat. Hope to see you!

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.

Warflower, the only solo show of my own paintings in the Bay Area this year closes this week. There are two more chances to see it. This Monday night, Oct. 11th at 7pm I will light the candles for the final time. We are going to watch a werewolf movie (I am not sure yet which one) downstairs and drink…Bring it on Halloween! I am bringing tequila, cause, well, it’s my favorite. I would love to see you there.

Five Points Art House will be open for the Yerba Buena Arts Walk on the 16th as well.

72 Tehama. San Francisco.

Dave’s show is this weekend at the Hive. His work is really magnificent in skill, scope, inspiration and playfulness. He is pushing the envelope more by having the reception on Sunday morning so we can all drink coffee, Dave’s favorite beverage. See you there.

As the Drawing Gallery is well into its second year, I have changed up the regular curriculum of high-concept group shows to now, a series of solo shows. The picture above is of the three artists who represents a kind of trilogy in my mind, from left to right, Alex Rosmarin, Dan Nelson and Brian Caraway. The dialogue that has been generated by their respective shows gets exactly to the core of why I started the Drawing Gallery in the first place. Alex’s show, ENTANGLED, was up in September and exhibited his amazingly fluid skill of poetic dreamscapes and twisted eroticism. Dan’s show is up now,  THE ORIGIN AND THE FUTURE OF THE BLOOD, is a show of cut out shapes that make specific reference Pascal’s (17th century math guy) theories. The wit implicit in Dan’s prolific show stretches what we think of as a drawing and even, a work of art in a larger, historical context. Brian is going to bring his methodic, rhythmic, ultimate vision of art to the space on October 30th. No doubt a cycle will be completed and we will all be the better for it. -obi

We all had a great time at the Group show entitled “Between Gray Areas” reception on Friday night. Below are some of the artists standing next to their work at the show. It totally reassured my faith in alternative art spaces. That isn’t to say that my faith was lost, Oakland is riding a mighty big wave right now. Given the talent at the show, how could it have been anything but a total hit? an it was. In order to see more information about the show, click the buttom on the right column. The gallery will be open Sundays from 1-5pm through the duration of the show.

Black and White portraits seemed appropriate.


Last night at Drawing Wednesday at Levende we had a special treat: ex-oakland, now-portland based artist Dan Nelson was a guest artist, not part of the normal and yet still emerging roster of the regular ten. I have always loved Dan’s art, so injected with acidic wit and merciless humor. He brings a kind of philosophical relief to an art world that so often takes itself way to seriously. 

Dan’s website is and his work is currently up at Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery through the month of Oakland.


  • Moises Aragon