The flip side at the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

on July 11, 2009

Tucked away between a Subway sandwich shop and a boarded up storefront on Grand Avenue is Mercury 20, a large, one-room art gallery.  And upstairs, hovering above it all, is the Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, a small room currently showing the work of three professional art-installers, who happen to be artists themselves.

Brian Caraway’s piece Return to Forever Again, For The First Time, grabs you as you come up the stairs – a column of old beat-up cassette tape holders (most barren of text, although one is labeled ‘Dueling Banjos’) sits on a pedestal and is lit from inside with a hint of jukebox-green light.

It is oddly moving for a child of the 1980s; it also invites inspection.  A green striped acrylic painting with vinyl crepe rounds out his collection on display.  Though it resembles bright wallpaper it’s also reminiscent of musical bars ebbing and flowing. Despite the different medium, it reflects the clean, straight lines of the stacked tape holders. The artist is, not surprisingly, a musician, according to Chandra Cerrito, the curator. He dabbles in minimalist structure and “really loves the idea of precision and methods,” she tells me.

hairscape22

Hair Scape 2

On the way to the opposite wall I encounter Paz De La Calzada’s work, which seems to be all about hair.  Even the small artist’s catalogue sitting on the table depicts her only as a few strands of dyed red locks.  She showed several small digital prints complimented by ink on paper drawings. The folds (or portions) of hair with child-like green or blue barrettes attached jolted me into the realization that its rare to ever see hair unattached in such a way, with the possible exception of coveted single locks, or the remains littering the floor after a visit to the hairdresser.

The movement of the hair in 99 Cent Beauty is delicate and somewhat beautiful although the pictures don’t invite more than a casual glance.  Your attention is dominated by Calzada’s larger charcoal on canvas, such as Hair Scape #1– a detailed drawing of a dark-haired person’s scalp (the folds of hair undulate and flow) and #2, a depiction of spread-out tunnel-like braids.  Paz is “interested in cultivating aspects of female beauty,“ Chandra said, which helped me make some sense of the disembodied subject.  I wandered on slightly bemused.

The last third of the small space presents the biggest conundrum; Chad Anderson‘s work in progress to create images inside of eggs that has spanned five years and promises to last for several more. He’s included three pieces from the project, which, the curator told me, she had to work hard to convince him to show.

Anderson’s installation consists of a small, old edition of the novel Gulliver’s Travels, which sits open, facing an intricate foam and wood model of a Lilipution city.  Small fishermen hover on a silver disc about six feet above the floor.  This, in turn, faces a small telescope and a photo that is a recreation of a depiction in a 1910 edition of the book; a real-life Gulliver stares in amazement at a city hovering in the sky.

gulliver1The installation appears intriguing but unfinished and I am grateful when Chandra explains that it is only part of a long process; the themes of alchemy and science permeate his work and the eventual projection of images projected into eggs (which will be given to people who must chose whether to break the egg and see part of the image or leave it intact and unseen) involves recreating old, sometimes badly-drawn scientific pictures.

The curator, who studied at Princeton and the California College of the Arts, is petite with long, straight brown hair. She’s an independent art consultant and began curating the space about two years ago.  First Fridays are big for the tiny gallery and the mostly younger crowd of 150-200 people that show up is refreshingly new to art and enthusiastic.  In a show’s later months they have started to pull a slightly more restrained, older crowd, she said.

“I think what I’m doing is highlighting underrepresented artists.  Their careers might be emerging but their work is already developed,” Chandra said, sitting across from me in the gallery in an oddly ribbed plastic chair,

Her shows usually run for two months.  Flip Side will be showing through August 1 and the gallery is located at 25 West Grand Avenue in Oakland.   Hours are limited to Friday, 4-7 p.m. and Saturday, 12-3 p.m.  First Fridays they stay open until 9.

2 Comments

  1. theo on July 13, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I wonder where her gallery is going to move to now that Mercury 20 is being evicted. That particular block has to be one of the worst to have an art gallery in Oakland and its landlord hikes up rent super ih after a business has in operation one year.



  2. theo on July 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Apparently the members of Mercury 20 are giving out two different accounts of their (supposed)closing. Perhaps they worked out a deal with their notorious landlord…?



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