Archive for the ‘THE WINE BAR GALLERY’ Category

I thought I would post a sneak-peek catalog of some stylized photos of tonight’s group show at Zza’s. The show is called Bacchinae and I am so very thrilled to present this collection. Zza’s Wine Bar, where I have organized shows for the past four years and am now moving on to other projects, now has such history for me, like a clubhouse that has been well loved or, more like a modernist cafe, built by a local community of creative types who simply enjoy each others’ company…well, most of the time.

The photos below are quick, false-color, snapshot details of each of the works as they are installed in the show.

Bacchinae, opens Saturday, December 17th, 2011. 6pm to 9pm. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. California.

Forest Stearns, detail, false color photo

David Seiler, detail, false color photo

Kelly Monson, detail, false color photo

Hunter Mack, detail, false color photo

Gina Tuzzi, detail, false color photo

Patricia Gillespie, detail, false color photo

Alison OK Frost, detail, false color photo

Holly Wach, detail, false color photo

Alissa Goss, detail, false color photo

Martin Webb, detail, false color photo

Ryan McJunkin, detail, false color photo

Michael Patton, detail, false color photo

Theo Auer, detail, false color photo


It’s funny thing, in the art world, at least MY art world, that the end of things isn’t necessarily a sad course of events. You have to free up energy to let new light in – you have to free yourself to be free. Christopher and Regina, the manager and the owner of Zza’s, have been the greatest, most liberating people to work with: always rolling out the red carpet, so to say for each artist – always letting us do whatever we wanted. When I started this project, I imagined a place where artists and friends could gather once a month and see each other’s work in an informal setting, a round table of exhibits. It worked – almost like something out of another time, turn of the century Paris or something classically modern where wine fuels the wit and everyone has a good, and sometimes strange, time.

More then the art, I am going to miss the gang. We, the Zza’s community, have shared over forty shows of art over the past four years. They have all been solo shows except for RED AND WHITE a couple of years back.  Now, in my second group show here at Zza’s I say farewell – gathering 14 Zza’s veteran for a big show: one night of great wine and brilliant art. As for the big picture? I have no idea what is next – come out Saturday night, get loud in the spirit of Bacchus, and share with me about what you got going on!

Below is a previously unreleased, black and white portrait of each artist – click on the picture to link to their original original studio-visit I did with them back in the day…

Zza’s Wine Bar is at 550 Grand Ave. Oakland, California. The show will be up through January 6th.

artist Holly Wach photo by obi kaufmann

artist Gina Tuzzi photo courtesy of the artist

artist Martin Webb photo by obi kaufmann

artist Ryan McJunkin photo by obi kaufmann

artist Elliot Fredericksen photo by obi kaufmann

artist Hunter Mack photo by Obi Kaufmann

artist Patricia Gillespie photo courtesy the artist

artist David Seiler photo by obi kaufmann

artist Theo Auer photo by obi kaufmann

artist Alison OK Frost photo by Obi Kaufmann


artist Alissa Goss photo by obi kaufmann

artist Forest Stearns photo by obi kaufmann

artist Michael Patton photo by obi kaufmann

artist Kelly Monson photo by obi kaufmann

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

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

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

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!

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…

The Paintings of Holly Wach will be at Zza’s Wine Bar from February 26th through April 1st. Reception: Saturday, February 26th, 6pm to 9pm. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland.

Obi: How are you doing it all? You just moved, about to have a baby and you are maintaining an amazingly constant, alluring portfolio of paintings?

Holly: I read a quote by Chuck Close a few years ago that says it all, “Inspiration is for amateurs; I just get to work.” I was lucky enough to see this first hand since my mom is an artist. I saw her consistently make time for her art no matter what life put in the way. This is also something I noticed about the artists and teachers I admired as well as fellow students who became successful. To me, talent is only the entrance fee. I just stopped wasting time worrying about what didn’t come naturally and got to work. There is a mystery and magic about giving in to this process and I hope there is also a constantly growing body of work.

I have to say the last few months have proved to be the biggest challenge. I usually take on a lot more: I teach, get heavily involved in ProArts Open Studios, and try to have my work showing in several venues at any given time. Now my body has a mind of its own and those all nighters and caffeine I counted on are gone. So right now, I am learning to say no, push away needless distractions and concentrate on things I really want to do. I hope I can keep it up.

Obi: How did you come about to be a painter? Can you give us a little geographic biography of your career?

Holly: Art classes are always where I felt important and strong. When I stepped through those doors to an art room it was like another me took over I felt like bring it on, tell me more and I wanted to fight to figure things out. Outside those doors I was shy and felt invisible. A series of art teachers throughout my life noticed this and placed steps I front of me while encouraging me to climb.

The first teacher was my mom. She is an artist and provided the first steps and is still. She would give me art lessons and bring me to her art shows and classes. I just graduated high school and her favorite teacher, a retired commercial artist from New York, agreed to give me classes for free. He would tell me stories about what is takes to become an artist and I absorbed as much as I could. He instilled in me the importance of knowing your craft and the best place for it is New York.

I attended a small art program at the University of North Florida headed by an amazing teacher. I fell in love with the figure, drawing, painting and the importance of creating a cohesive body of work. A year into the program her star student returned from New York to teach at the school. The two of them were pivotal in providing my next step and their support continues to this day. They introduced me to the New York Academy of Art, which was dedicated to the love of the figure and mastering the disciplines of drawing, painting and sculpture.


I applied and was denied. I was crushed, but the hard work I had seen growing up took over and I moved to New York anyway. I took night classes at the Academy of Art, talked to Admissions and spent the next year getting my portfolio and recommendations geared toward the school. I was accepted the next year. But New York is a different beast and all those “making-it clichés” are really true. I found myself in a world filled with talent and ambition. For the first time I entered an art room feeling small, shy and unnoticed. I trudged through, learned so much and in the end I found the lions.

I spent eight more years in New York and continued to soak up what the city had to give. I took classes at the Art Students League, New York Studio School and visited galleries and museums

Three years ago, my boyfriend and I started looking for a place where we could have space to create. We found Oakland, settled in and I got right to work.

Obi: okay. I have to ask: Why Lions?

Holly: I have questioned this myself many times and why I never seem to tire of them. It wasn’t until recently I was asked to give an artist talk that they finally made sense to me. I mentioned that my Grad school experience gave me the lions.

At the Academy I felt over my head and was being asked why I chose this school. The students and faculty where talented, ambitious, and some were famous. In this environment I started to withdraw.

I was working on my thesis project and the picture of a women and a lion sleeping side by side appeared to me. I felt compelled to create this world that felt tense, dangerous and strangely affectionate. The lion represented decisive boldness without regret, hesitation or deceit. The female character exhibited a sense of security, calmness, and yet tenacity in the face of her adversary and companion. I understand now that I was screaming out to my school and teachers, “I should be here and I do have what it takes, you just don’t see it yet.” The lions became part of my story and I became part of my art.

The presence of power, fear, sexuality and confrontation I feel are represented in lions and women continue to intrigue me. As I grow and understand the themes in myself, these characters grow in my art.

For more on Holly, visit her website here.

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.

Through oceans of red wine and grand vistas of beautiful paintings, we all survived the evening. Alison Tharp (pictured below at left, with Alissa Goss whose work is up next month, November 13th) and her new show, entitled “A Sideways Science” schooled all of us. She sold nearly half the show. Her colorful, provocative and engagingly youthful work was the best way to reopen the Wine Bar Gallery for its first show in nearly five months. If you missed Saturday night, come on down to Zza’s and see it sometime in the next month. They are open everyday at five pm.

It is the Little Show that Could! Alison Tharp IS going to show at Zza’s Wine Bar in Oakland afterall. October 2nd. Saturday night. Put it on your calendar. Her colorful, intimate works that portray a wonderland of pathos and joy will be presented in a solo show entitled “A Sideways Look at Science.” It was really supposed to happen in July, but there was a bunch of craziness. We are super happy it is actually going to happen now!

August at Zza’s. A FLIGHT. curations by Obi Kaufmann

Artists: Brük Dunbar, Jeanne Lorenz, Jeff Riley, Micke Tong

location: 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. Open everyday at five pm.

Zza’s is back. I was so concerned about how, when and if Zza’s would come back. Is the name gonna change? Will it take too long for them to reopen? Is Chris, the world’s best wine-bartender, coming back? The future looked bleak and I was ready to walk. That meant walking away from two years, 22 shows and a well manicured culture of art receptions that were built on community, beautiful art, great food and of course, the world’s best wine.

 Jeff Riley at Zza’s Wine Bar and Gallery, August, 2010

Then I got the call.  Regina said that they got their license back after the ownership transfer and needed some art. So, reluctantly, I made an appointment and strolled into the newly reopened Zza’s Wine Bar. This was Wednesday evening. The light from the dim sunset was bouncing off of Lake Merritt and reflecting off those slate gray walls, warming up the whole place in a romantic, mission-like, old-California way. I knew I was screwed because I was in love again before I even stepped inside. Rasaan was cooking his amazing vegetarian, organic paninis on the front porch and the smell wafted around me like the fine sangria I was about to drink.

Then there was Chris. Big smile. Ready to go. Yes, he is back. Regina was hanging out with her beautiful daughter and the whole thing felt like we didn’t miss a beat. It is the best job ever, a total no brainer. How could I say no? I am in. I got the artists and we are going to fire up the scene once again!

The first call I made was to Alison Tharp. Her show got cancelled when Zza’s lost their liquor license last month. To my tremendous relief, she was totally thrilled that Zza’s was reopened and that I agreed to keep running the art shows out of there. So, October 2 is the date for that reception…the grand reopening of our quiet movement. A great and triumphant return and the victory that is throwing an art show at all! How hard it can be! What wierd obstacles. I am so, so glad Alison is back on board.

Today I hung so work from the curatorial collection. We won’t be having a reception for this show, but please know that it is there and the work is for sale. I can be reached anytime at 925-951-7501.

Brük Dunbar behind the bar and Jeanne Lorenz to the right.

Jeanne Lorenz

Brük Dunbar

Micke Tong. Installation view.

above works by Micke Tong


It came from nowhere. Nowhere! Zza’s is closed.

Alison Tharp’s beautiful paintings, in a show entitled A SIDEWAYS LOOK AT SCIENCE were scheduled to show this upcoming Saturday (7/17) and now that is not going to happen. I feel like we have put it on ice. I am telling you, these images are so fresh, convoluted, compelling and world-class that any venue would be so truly honored to exhibit them. Right now we are left with a terrible chasm, a vacuous space where so much potential had just been, like a sink hole or even a black hole.

There are those among us who really believe in this stuff, this art stuff, with all of it’s pomp. We need, and I mean need like on a metabolic level, the interaction, the dialogue, the back and forth, the drama of an artist emerging, like a flower from the impossible Oakland soil into the light and then of course feeding and being fed by a collection of friends and makeshift family that really care. I don’t care about much and yet I care about this. If you are still reading, you care too.

I understand they (Zza’s) will be opening again after they get the transfer of the liquor license figured out, but it will be with a different name and a different brand. Do I want to be a part of it? I am not sure. They are not sure. Everything is in flux.

There are a few factors that made Zza’s so great and why I did it for a couple of years: 20 shows. 1) the spreads were great. They rolled out the red carpet for every artist. Big tables of food that kept coming. No cheap wine. No pretzels. 2) Zza’s is not a restaurant, people expect interesting and provocative art under those spotlights 3) Zza’s is not a gallery, people hang out there for hours and get silly off the vino. There is a Modernist ethic to community building through art, where we hang out and argue about what we are looking at, where it comes from and where it is going. 4) Wine.

So, is it done? I don’t know. I have received a huge amount of solidarity here and I am so thankful for it. If you know Alison, give here a hug or drop her a line. It is all very confusing, off-putting, and a bit overwhelming. Thank you, Obi Kaufmann. 925-951-7501

Obi Says: Hunter Mack is a talented painter with a background in engineering. The paintings in this show are consistant with his portfolio in that they stick to this repetive, melodic, algorithmic, checkerboard motif. The effect of the subtle colors against the stark streaks of white and other bold colors reminds me of a song by some as yet unknown indie band making music that is not noise and is not pop, but still works. Did I mention that Hunter runs a record label too? In any case, I am proud to have this work in the Wine Bar Gallery right now and if you are interested in purchasing any of the works that are left please let me know. you can email me at Please download the PDF image sheet and if you would like to check out the show in person, head on down to Zza’s. They are open everyday at five o’clock. The show runs through July 8.

Opening Reception. When: Saturday May 1st, 6-9PM
Where: Zza’s Enoteca (550 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94618)

Click here to link to Hunter Mack’s Studio Visit and interview from April 2010

Click here to link to Hunter Mack’s Studio Visit and interview from April 2009

Hunter Says: ALSO, in conjunction with this show, my good friend Graham Hill and I are collaborating on a project. We’re raising funds through Kickstarter to produce a limited edition archival art print and 7″ vinyl record. Both items are shaping up to be pretty awesome. We’ve got 8 days left to raise $301 – the project does not get funded if we don’t reach our goal of $2000. By pledging to the project you can receive the record, the print, or even an original piece of art. Check out the website and support us!

Studio Visit: Patricia Gillespie. 02-24-10. click on each image to enlarge

For her upcoming show at Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery, Patricia Gillespie presented this to me as her artist’s statement: Nobody stands alone in this hectic, interconnected world. There are moments though when we can step past or through our clusters of connections and find a place where we focus on ourselves. These moments revitalize our indepedence and show us our creativity.

The first thing I thought of when I read her statement was that it sounded like something that Patricia herself would have carved out of wood with her little scroll saw and incorporated into one of her works. The text in her art walks a very thin line between informing and misdirecting the viewer as to the motivations behind the imagery.

Patricia is a good friend of mine and a pillar of our local Oakland art scene. You might remember her work hanging on the side of Esteban Sabar’s Gallery (when it existed) a couple of years back: half of a woman in bright pinks and oranges on her back as if the side of the building was a bed that she languished all over. Or maybe you saw her work when she had a show a couple of months ago at Mercury20 when she was briefly part of that collective.

Now Patricia brings her unique vision to Zza’s and who can wait! Her gender-politicizing paintings are strikingly hip and executed with an expert craftsman’s hand. As we were looking at this piece (wood on upholstered panel) she asked me to define saphrophyte. I could not, she said it is something that grows from death, like an orchid.

I like her work best when she hits the right tone of existential angst and meditative detatchment…when she and her characters hover in the right place between being engaged and not giving a shit. I mean this as a formal place, her style is consistantly meticulous, Patricia always gives a shit about all moments in her work.

Parusing her sketches, she showed me this drawing of a larger set piece she did for the Box Car Theater in San Francisco last year for the Vagina Monologues. The artists arrived on stage through the vagina. That is one big vagina.

Her is a piece that is just beginning next to a lipstick stained coffee mug, an image that is iconically associated in my mind with Patricia Gillespie.

This is a snap of her North Oakland living room that she shares with her son and her husband. You can’t quite see the bullet hole above that awesome mattress.

Patricia thinks that I can’t take a good picture of her to save my life. I think this one is great! she looks all serious…if you have met Patricia yet, you know she isn’t.

The show at Zza’s is going to be great. Patricia is going to do some flower installations and incorporate new surprises that are not posted in this studio visit. I hope you join us.
Patricia Gillespie at Zza’s. March 20th. 550 Grand Ave. Oakand, CA. 6pm-9pm.
Call me, Obi Kaufmann, 925-951-7501 for details or questions.
and click here for a link to the studio visit I had with her next year.
Stay tuned to the blog for new information about her show next month.

The Art Of Michael Patton
Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery
550 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA

Reception. Saturday, Feb 13th. 6-9pm

“The show will consist of a series of drawings which are not traditional but more about the idea of what a ‘drawing’ can be = marks on paper. focus on process + outcome. These drawings reflect a feeling and emotion of separation…and also a group of ‘intimate’ sculpture. (in scale and meaning)*also im planning to do a limited edition poster that will be available for sale at the opening. This work is very much a personal narrative- from process to material to presentation. The title is referencing the approach to the work, as far as concept and actual display (spacing). I use the word continuum in my statement, which refers to a compact and connected set containing at least two elements. I’im using this idea as a subtle metaphor for relationships and connection.” –

Michael Patton

STATEMENT:t h e s p a c e b e t w e e n ( a l o v e s t o r y )

Using our bodies, we measure the vastness of time through visual and physical experience. Ordinary objects can be deeply connected to intimate memories, emotion, and past experiences. Navigating identity, i find a personal narrative rooted in objects, materials, and process. Shaped by time, these works are presented as a continuum of remnant memories.

curator’s note: I have been a long-time fan of the art of Michael Patton and am proud to present him at Zza’s. His work is object-based, so it will differ from Zza’s’ usual faire of two dimensional work. Please come by for the usual spread of fantastic art, food and the best wine in the world. -Obi Kaufmann.

“Farewell Horizontal”
new work byJason Byers

You are cordially invited to “Farewell Horizontal”,
new work by Jason Byers at
Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery in Oakland on
Saturday, November 7, 2009 from 6 – 9pm.

The horizontal plane is at once always before us and always behind us, always advancing and ever receding, it is everywhere, all at once, all the time. The horizontal plane is a singular point of reference in time and place for each of us, we are always where we are in relation to it and never where we are not. Without it, there is no up or down, side to side, forward or backward and despite its abundantly varied features and nuances, it’s orientation is never lost no matter where one is. Indeed, the horizontal plane is the foundation from which buildings and structures strive to break its ever present hold and reshape the skyline, where trees and plants sink roots and grow and flourish. It is the demarcation between earth and sky, a definitive edge at the extent of our vision and far beyond our reach. It serves as a metaphor of endless possibility, of the future and what may be in store, of closure and a new beginning. It is the body in prone position, at its most vulnerable sign of surrender either to a lover or an enemy, or the simple need for rest. It is at once the nourishing backdrop of human experience and that final point of exhaustion found in the unmistakable drone of an ever approaching flatline.

Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery
550 Grand Ave.Oakland, CA 94610
November 7 – December 11, 2009
Opening Reception:Saturday, November 7th6-9pm.


  • Moises Aragon