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Home Opening Photos July's Oakland Murmur

July's Oakland Murmur

Written by Theo Konrad Auer   
Thursday, 30 July 2009 11:02
Theo Konrad Auer ponders July's festivities and ponders the future of this first Fridays event.

I headed out this last first friday to the Art Murmur as I do nearly every first firday expecting little, but knowing each time out there's always at least two or three shows worth going to and the experience is usually a fair mix of the entertaining and educational. I had a small role in helping get the Art Murmur rolling a long way back which was documented in a blog I did for the fecal as The Eastsider, a moniker which has now been retired.

Words ad photos by Theo Konrad Auer

I didn't know what to expect this night and by no means is my account meant to be taken as comprehensive, but based on my pix there were some surprises in store as well as unusually consistent programming from Oakland's nascent art galleries for an art walk in which its party aspect often overshadows its art as has been noted many of our local critics and journalists.

First up I biked from Berkeley to Oakland's The Compound Gallery which lies next to Blankspace just south of the Oakland/Berkeley border. It's set - up is a bit similar to Swarm Gallery in Jack London Sq. as it contains artist studios which are open to the public during operating hours for its two gallery display rooms.

I must note that vibewise, this space is decidedly D.I.Y. while Swarm's leans more toward "contemporary art gallery."

One of the two shows up now "Anatomies" features work that playfully subverts the carefully curated and classified structure one finds in a museum which often contradicts the at times chaotic nature of our world. Courtesy of Adrian Van Allen, here's a carefully preserved example of "Equus mono ursus" otherwise known as the common unicorn.

At first I thought Kari Marboe's "medical narratives" were the stuff of urban legend. Pictured at left is the preserved partially digested eye (or a decent representation of it) of a Texas death row inmate who ate his own eye. According to news reports I dug up, he had previously gouged his other eye. Yes, folks, some shit you just can't make up.

Oh, and pictured at left is the preserved heart (or a decent representation of it) of man who received a transplanted heart from a suicide victim, only to kill himself twelve years later with a shotgun blast to the head. This sad story, too, is true. Crazy. Even crazier is that this guy married the donor's widow.

-links :

Conveniently located right next door is personal favorite Blankspace, which often shows more experimental/conceptual work and has a similar vibe to that of much missed Ego Park( albeit with a bit less raucous of an atmosphere).

This month's show "just because there are questions doesn't mean there are answers" features "... new collaborative work by Sam Lopes, Joy Fritz and Friends." This depiction of Divine of John Waters fame by Sam Lopes and Matthew Momchilov is a particular standout for me.

Post Blankspace, as I rode my bike to uptown Oakland on San Pablo - I came across this memorial to folks "...killed by homicide in Oakland this year." Longtime fecalface followers might recall that I was nearly killed in a violent mugging a few years back. It happened a block away from the Bart station where Oscar Grant was killed by a cop recently. Stop the violence, yall.

About 15 minutes later I arrive at the intersection of 23rd and Telegraph to find the street scene in full effect. 23rd street is closed for most Art Murmurs with live music and/or some sort of performance on hand and a ton of vendors set up shop selling everything and anything, sometimes chintzy and sometimes rad. There's even a fellow who will craft poems for you with words of your own suggestion on an ancient looking typewriter curbside. Here's something for all of you lovers out there on a budget.

There were some "steampunk" folks out and about.

Next I headed over the rarely open to the public Bloom Screen Printing. The few times they do these, they're can't miss events as the space will be packed with great prints on the cheap. Check this Jeff Soto on the right. Nice, huh? I am fairly sure the photo on the left is not Nat Swope's work, though Farrah Fawcett can rest in peace knowing she helped a generation of boys through their adolescence as well as a provide a great subject for Alika Cooper's paintings.

I like the proprietor's sense of humor.

Next up I went over to the consistently good and sometimes great Johannson Projects for "Back Channels" which features new works by Alisha Wheeler and Evan B. Harris.

The view from inside Alisha Wheeler's cave installation.

Evan B. Harris art.

In the galleries that lie in the close vicinity of Telegraph and 23rd, Adam Hatch's eponymously named space that took over where Ego Park left off usually runs a close second to Johannson Projects in terms of consistency of the art presented. Here's some quite rather topical work by one time fellow fecalface blogger Porous Walker. Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson.

Porous Walker detail.

Mark Inglis Taylor art.

The crowd at Hatch Gallery.

Next door to Hatch, is Fort Gallery, which has had a decidedly uneven run of shows - quality wise - since its opening last fall and has now recently subdivided into spaces reserved for art and live performance - local illustrator Jon Carling keeps a 'permanent' open studio there where has been doing surprisingly brisk business for an art market in downturn. Link to old Oakbook article I did on Fort Gallery:

Jon Carling Art

While Mr. Carling has been selling work...from what I gather Fort Gallery has been making more money from music shows than from the selling of art. It has been reported to me by local artist Obi Kaufmann that the space is being shut down due to a recent incidence of violence at one of its music shows. I tracked down a witness to the fracas and here's what went down in local activist and musician Max Allstadt's own words,

"What happened at FORT was the kind of random violence that can happen anywhere. A guy in his late 30's, a guy from San Francisco: he was the culprit, not some young partying kids. He seemed a little nuts. He showed up and was randomly insulting people and making nasty sexual comments to women. When he was firmly asked to leave by two of the guests, he beckoned them to a dark corner, pulled a knife and started slashing. That's not a party getting unruly, that's just one guy going nuts. I didn't step in until after he slashed my drummer's hand badly enough that it was squirting blood.

I started throwing stuff at him, screaming "drop the knife" over and over again. I finally hit him in the head with a shovel, and he was dazed enough for the women at the party to get in between us and get him out of the gallery. That was fine with me. Once he committed assault with a deadly weapon, He needed to be disarmed, subdued or gone. He was gone, so for me it was over. Until the cops showed up and cuffed me. I was let go when the police got confirmation from all the people who saw the dude with the knife.

However, because the cops got involved, it turned out that FORT had no permit for live music, so their landlord told them to stop having shows. My understanding is that in this economy, they were having trouble selling enough art to make ends meet, so they're closing."

Post Fort Gallery, I made my way over to a few other galleries, but alas I failed to take any photos of the work I saw there. After all the arting I set out with a friend to pick up my bike and found the most diverse assortment of characters ever in evidence at an Art Murmur.

A crowd of hipsters, local folks and even a few leather daddies were dancing it up - some drinks in hand - to a dj who had a high powered speaker system set up along the sidewalk. It was the wildest, most spontaneous dance party I have seen in quite some time. My friends and I could not resist joining in and staying. Who doesn't want to dance with cute girls? C'mon now.

At one point someone set a fire in the middle of Telegraph Avenue. Eventually folks spilled into the street dancing and blocking traffic as if this event was Critical Shake That Ass. It was rather beautiful and it took the cops an hour and a half to show up and shut it down.

Due to the profuse amounts of open alcohol containers and what I suspect was a lack of proper permitting on the sidewalks adjoining 23rd street, Adam Hatch who has been in charge of Art Murmur street closures is putting a close to that particular aspect of the monthly first friday event for the forseeable future citing safety issues - also noting that it has been beginning to drive away collectors. "The street closure has consumed the initial reason we started it, to promote art. Now the sheer density of people has made it unenjoyable." I wonder how much the incident at Fort Gallery contributed to all this. That said, all this has happened before and I hope will not happen again.

Art spaces get shut down seemingly every other month. I even co - curated an art show "resurrecting" several such spaces. What's the solution? There's no one "fix - all", but it is clear to me that Oakland needs an entertainment commission much like there is in New York or San Francisco. Max Allstadt has advocated for such a commisson and I think it's fitting, that he get the last word: "If there had been an inexpensive special event permit process in Oakland, this mess might not have been nearly as bad. FORT had a locked gate that night. If it had been open, either the jackass with the knife or the people he attacked might have felt able to flee instead of fight. If there was a special event permit process, it probably would include guidelines about exits that business owners would know to follow.

It's important to remember that every other business owner on that block is completely above board, totally legit, and experienced. 23rd Street has been a huge asset to the neighborhood. One knife weilding nutjob [is] not a reason to dial down the fun. It was an isolated incident and it's very much over. I hope Art Murmur can keep moving forward and keep being safe, fun and beneficial."


Link to video with interviews with Dead Spaces curators Theo Konrad Auer, Adam Hatch and Derek Weisberg. The show resurrected Liminal, the Auto Art Gallery and Boontling Gallery among many others that died before their time:


Words ad photos by Theo Konrad Auer


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