Oakland Art Murmur – June

Another First Friday come and gone but the weekend of art has only just begun. I did not get to meet up  with MCM and Derek; I got there much earlier than usual. It was packed, as to be expected on a warm, late summer evening, and the crowds taxed my limit of tolerance for people inexplicably standing in doorways instead of walking through them. But musicians were out, food stalls were well represented (next time I may have to check out the bacon s’mores?) and a drum circle was getting the crowd worked up.

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First stop was Mercury 20 where Maya Kabat had some beautiful paintings up. Bright yellow and kelly green and chartruese, spread on and divided with a palate knife. Sometimes scraped down to the canvas, sometimes thick with high ridges. Her colors and textures were really wonderful.

Next to Bloom Screen Printing for The Small Stakes sale. Their front room is tiny, everyone wanted a crack at the posters, and I was out of cash. I didn’t stay long, I already have my book.

Johansson Projects once again was the highlight. I had looked at their current exhibit, ‘If Only’ by Rune Olsen online and was expecting just the sort of contemporary art I usually dislike.

If Only features a maze of life-sized sculptures of children on leashes crisscrossing and obstructing the gallery

space. Constructed of newspaper, plastic bags, archival tape, and glass eyes resembling his own, Olsen’s kid

creations tethered by their leashes are simultaneously humorous and confrontational. Are “brat-straps” a

practical device to supervise a child’s exploration or an instrument suited only for controlling an animal? By

blurring the line between animal and human, Rune Olsen targets fundamental emotions to test the interplay

between freedom, control and submission.” -Johansson Projects website.

Yeah, the glass eyes? Creepy. But I was wrong. In person, it was awesome. The kids were still creepy, and yes, they were confrontational, but also somehow endearingly cute; you had to interact with them, due to the straps, and once I spent some time walking through the gallery, they started to grow on me. You can approach them from any angle but you have to deal with walking under and around all those straps, creating a claustrophobic spider’s web of a space. You are not able to just stand back and observe, you must enter and get wrapped up with these mischievous kids. Luckily I hit the gallery on a rare empty moment so I really felt I could examine each child. The show will be running until mid-July so don’t skip the next First Friday and check out this exhibit.

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