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Artist Beili Liu with Vessel Gallery Owner Lonnie Lee. Liu's upcoming show, "Between Wind and Water" consists of a site-specific installation and works on paper and birch panels.

Oakland art gallery roundup

on January 6, 2012

Art Murmur’s Next Steps

Expect Oakland Art Murmur to be a bit different in 2012. The First Friday art walk, which began eight years ago as a semi-informal collaboration between a few Temescal and Northgate galleries, went “legit” last year. Newly incorporated as a nonprofit and boasting a governing board, events manager and executive director, Art Murmur is finally in a position to grow Oakland’s little art scene into the destination it wants to be—or so hopes Danielle Fox, the organization’s new executive director, and the owner of Slate Contemporary Gallery on 25th St. and Broadway.

Art Murmur executive director, Danielle Fox, in her gallery, Slate Contemporary. 

“On the back end, it’s completely different,” Fox said. “We have a board of directors, marketing projects, fundraising. We’re close to having a printed gallery guide. Now that we’re more organized, we’re able to think bigger and take on more ambitious projects.”

The latter half of 2011 saw the start of Saturday Stroll, a low-key daytime art walk characterized by artists talks and other events meant to engage art-savvy visitors more interested in buying art, than in being part of a nightlife scene. This year, Fox hopes to create other, more innovative ways to draw art lovers into Oakland galleries. Top on her list—if she can get the funding for it—is an Art Murmur smartphone app “to help people get out and plan their First Fridays and Saturday Strolls,” she said.

But a more realizable goal, Fox admits, is rethinking the way Art Murmur uses 23rd Street, which is closed to traffic every First Friday and become an outdoor market of food trucks, vendors and community tablers. The problem, according to Fox, is that the street event tends have problems with crowding and trash. To keep things orderly this year, she’s limiting the number of craft vendors to 10 and the number of food trucks to 6, and she’s hired a part time events manager to coordinate outdoor art exhibitions and installations.

“I would love to have 23rd Street be a curated art space—more an outdoor gallery than a shopping area,” Fox said. This year, she added, Oakland art lovers can expect a more organized, vibrant and engaging First Friday experience, with plenty of new, daytime art events rolling out by summer.

In the meantime, Art Murmur gallerists have put together a diverse docket of new exhibitions opening the First Friday of 2012. Here’s a preview:

New Year, New Exhibitions

Vessel Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, “Between Wind and Water,” is all about contradicting energies—a fitting new year show for an art gallery that recently relocated to Oakland’s industrial, auto district, according to gallery owner Lonnie Lee.

The center of the show is a stunning installation that Chinese American artist Beili Liu created specifically for Lee’s gallery, a light-filled, converted auto glass warehouse. “I was very attracted to the space,” said Liu, gesturing at the high vaulted ceilings and clean, white walls. “I wanted to do something responsive, linear, airy.”

The resulting piece, Stalemate, fills more than half of the gallery’s second floor: Two rounded birch beams painted graphite are suspended in midair by hundred of white, cotton threads connected to the ceiling, floor and walls. The heavy, pointed beams, facing one another, put one in mind of bullets or warheads frozen in the moment before impact. Liu describes it as “Two energies opposing each other. There’s motion but there’s a sense of silence. This soft, ephemeral, very domestic material is holding this intense, violent space.”

More than a dozen 2D pieces complement the installation, most of them paper cutouts on graphite, birch panels that evoke the same sense of quiet conflict or collision.

Opens Friday, January 6, 6  to 9PM at Vessel Gallery: 471 25th Street

“Ink Explosion” by Michele Hofherr, from Slate Contemporary’s “Water / Color” show.

Slate Contemporary’s ironically titled show, “Watercolor,” features no watercolor works. Rather, gallery owner Danielle Fox has curated a colorful, mixed media show on the theme of water. “I thought it would be a nice to have some color for the winter months,” Fox said.

Painter Jane Norling will show five large oil and graphite works that depict water moving through natural landscape. Photographer Carol Inez Charney will show a series of natural landscape photographs filtered through wet glass. Finally, photographer Michele Hofherr’s images capture drops of ink moving through invisible water currents. Fox is particularly excited about Hofherr’s collection.

“Michele is almost painting in water in three dimensions, and using photographs to capture something that is very fleeting,” she said. “What she shows is very familiar, shapes that look almost like sea life.”

Opens Friday January 6, 6–9pm at Slate Contemporary, 473 25th Street.

“Up in Arms” by Amber Aguirre, from Roscoe Ceramics Gallery’s January show.

Roscoe Ceramics Gallery rings in the new year with a provocative exhibition by Hawaiian artist Amber Aguirre. Titled “Up in Arms,” the show depicts strange, distorted and sometimes broken sculptures of babies interacting with objects of destruction. Aguirre uses a surface technique called “Naked Fauxku” which gives the figures a cracked, painful look that renders her subject—babies—all the more disturbing.

“I think the crowd is going to like her stuff because it’s a little twisted,” said gallery owner and ceramics artists Derek Van Beers. “It’s a little disturbing… Her work makes you think, but it also makes you smile and possibly even smile and that’s definitely right up my alley.

Runs January 6 through 29, at Roscoe Ceramics, 473 25th Street.

Different Takes on Oakland

Three upcoming exhibitions take Oakland as their subject, but approach it in very different ways.

Artist Chris Treggiari and Krowswork gallery owner Jasmine Moorhead set up an installation for their January show.

At Krowswork Gallery, artists Sonja Hinrichsen and Chris Treggiari have created a multimedia installation that uses the Bay Area’s topography as lens through which they examine the region’s social, spiritual and physical history. The exhibit, called “The SFBay: A Mediamorphology,” makes use of all four rooms in the gallery: The first contains a large topographical depiction of the Bay Area, upon which historical photographs and videos will be overlain. In the second room, fabric Oak trees sprout from a three-dimensional map of Oakland as videos play across their trunks. The last two rooms will contain a sculpture and other video photographs on the same theme.

The exhibit will be the second in a three-part series of California-themed shows curated by gallery owner Jasmine Moorhead. “I’m very interested in the question of ‘What is this place?’,” she said. “When I first moved here eight years ago, I did not expect this land to be so powerful. People are going to like that they can come in here and walk through this environment, not looking at art on wall, but having an experience of it.”

Runs January 6 – February 11, 2012 at Krowswork Gallery, 480 23rd Street.

PHOTO’s January show feature portraits of Oakland Art Murmur vistors.

PHOTO gallery is hosting a different kind of show this month—one that takes as its subject “the denizens of Art Murmur.” Last year, photographers shot portraits of First Friday visitors, which will be on display this Friday in a show titled, “Portraits from Oakland.”

As visitors move through the gallery, the portraits will be sold right off wall, as photographers hang new ones in the place, according to gallery member Irene Irmfeld.

The photographs ere taken by John Martin, Ralf Hillebrand, Charlotte Niel, Anthony Delgado, Henry Bowles and Gary Weiner, all of the Bay Area Photographers Collective.

Runs January 6 – February 18, 2012 at PHOTO, 473 25th Street.

Though technically not part of Art Murmur, the Oakland Museum of California is opening a new exhibition that’s worth mentioning. Titled, “Question Bridge: Black Males,” the show consists of a multimedia installation featuring videos of black men engaging in question and answer dialogue about black male identity in America.

Directed by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, and Bayete Ross, the project explores the complexities and challenges of the black male experience.

Runs January 14 through April 22 at OMCA, 1000 Oak Street.

For a full list of upcoming Art Murmur exhibitions, visit:


  1. […] media and paper cutouts. Read Oakland North’s previous coverage here. More info […]

  2. […] media and paper cutouts. Exhibit runs through February 18. Read Oakland North’s previous coverage here. More info […]

  3. […] Water,” plus Lion Dance and Chinese Folk Dance performances.  Read Oakland North’s previous coverage here. More info […]

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