ROBERT TAYLOR: FINE ARTS
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 07/05/2007 03:03:30 AM PDT
BERKELEY IS marking the 40th anniversary of its sister-city relationship with Sakai, Japan, a port city near Osaka. One result of that relationship is the Berkeley Bridge Artists, a group that promotes cultural exchange and is sponsoring three exhibits to the East Bay this summer.
The most wide-ranging exhibit is at the Richmond Art Center and is titled "Moshi Moshi!" after the all-purpose telephone greeting in Japan.
The exhibit is not as lively as its title, but it does display nearly 100 works by 30 Japanese and 20 American artists. The intention is to show how they influence each other, although international influences could play a part as well.
What "Moshi Moshi!" does best is show a variety of art from one region in Japan -- paintings, drawings, prints, calligraphy, photographs and sculpture. Not all by one artist, or all in one medium.
Several of the artists have earned the status of "living national treasure" in Japan, but the exhibit doesn't strive to be reverential. The Richmond Art Center isn't the place for dramatic spotlights and hushed tones.
The ceramics and sculpture, out in the midst of the gallery, are a particular pleasure. One of Toyomitsu Hondayama's rough-surfaced ceramic pieces, with a twisted shape and striated curves, might be an ancient relic dug out of the ground or discovered in the ocean. He also displays twin pots shaped like a child's toy boats, with their top surfaces grooved like raked gravel in a temple courtyard.
There's a wide range of styles among the paintings, from some that look like exploding galaxies to Aki Nakai's charming, thoughtful portraits of women, each with her head resting on one hand. As the gallery exhibitions manager pointed out, the paintings look as if they've borrowed inspiration from Mary Cassatt -- who borrowed, herself, from Japanese art.
Most of the paintings are abstract to some extent, among them Mitsuru Fukui's pair of landscapes that look like worn and scraped blackboards with the scattered remains of rocks and sticks. Kyoko Suekane's trio of "Under Sky" landscapes are just as mysterious, but in contrast, they're painted and scraped on silver foil paper, with the foreground looking like immense ice floes carved by canals.
YOU CAN'T HELP smiling when you walk into the NIAD gallery in Richmond and see the colorful and imaginative works produced at this center for art and disabilities.
That's especially true now with the "Summer of Love" show. The entry wall painted a vivid purple for the dipole of Metrius Englin's amusing portrait of a nude lounging on a purple-print couch. Behind her is a painting-within-the painting, a still-life depicting a bowl of fruit against another purple background. And to the right of Englin's portrait is a chunky ceramic sculpture with a gleaming blue glaze by Susan Wise.
The canny arrangement is by Ted Cohen, who has given Oakland Museum exhibits a dramatic edge for many years.
The NIAD gallery feels unusually spacious for this show, with the additional punch of a rear wall painted orange to display a hanging, multi-textured yarn sculpture by Vincente Villanueva. Another hanging sculpture of braided rope, by Lacee King, floats in the middle of the room.
Other impressive sculpted and crafted works include Dorrie Reid's "Tsunami," built mostly from carpenter's shims, painted blue, aqua and green and dotted with black and orange. Another is Dorothy Porter's delightful little figure made of striped knit fabric like socks, with a pair of rabbitlike ears and three button "eyes."
Artist Emanuel Diaz, who creates superheroes in various forms, offers three painted and glazed tiles depicting his Star Universe Man in a comic-book-style fight. Bubba Trieber displays a trio of collages which would look smart on any gallery wall, worked up from wallpaper, fabric and ribbons.
Paintings brighten the space as well. Willie Harris creates a big, freaky figure with arms spread, its hands and hair looking like splayed electric wire, with red circles tumbling all around it. (The figure also appears in a new mural on the outside of NIAD's building.)
Jeremy Burleson, in a similar evocative style, outlines a pair of figures in strong black lines (as if he were channeling Miro) and fills them in with a wash of red and orange. The mysterious figures have beaklike noses, intense expressions and hair that might be cockscombs.
Robert Taylor covers fine arts for the Times. Reach him at 925-977-8428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RICHMOND ART CENTER: "Moshi Moshi! Bridging Cultures Through Art," through Aug. 10, noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2540 Barrett Ave., entrance at 25th Street, Richmond, free, 510-620-6772, http://www.therichmondartcenter.org. Reception for artists 3-6 p.m. July 14.
Also scheduled: "Rising Sun: A Bridge to Japan," work by American artists inspired by visits to Japan, through Aug. 23, Alta Bates Medical Center lobby gallery, 2450 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, open daily, 510-204-4444.
"Bridge to Sakai: Japanese Arts and Crafts of Today," works by eight artists, July 11-Aug. 23, Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., noon-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, free, 510-644-6893, http://www.berkeleyartcenter.org. Reception for artists 2-4 p.m. July 15.
NIAD GALLERY: "Summer of Love," through Sept. 21, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 551 23rd St. near Barrett Avenue, Richmond, free, 510-620-0290, http://www.niadart.org.
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