Our critics weigh in on local exhibits

Contemporary Jewish Museum. "The Jewish Journey: Frederic Brenner's Photographic Odyssey": In the last 25 years Brenner has taken 80,000 photographs of Jewish folk; this exhibition contains 100 large-scale Brenner prints that provide a marvelous overview of the Jewish diaspora. Through Feb. 27. Free-$5. 121 Steuart (at Mission), 591-8800,

Exploratorium. "Traits of Life": A major exhibition area with 30 biology exhibits and demonstrations that help visitors understand the fundamental elements common to all living things from humans to amoebas. Daily. Free with museum admission. 3601 Lyon (at Marina), 397-5673,

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. "On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West": An exhibit that spotlights the artistic reaction of Chinese artists to Western aesthetics and politics. Through May 1. Free. Lomita and Museum (Stanford campus), Stanford, 650-723-4177.

Judah L. Magnes Museum. "Surviving Suprematism: Lazar Khidekel": The first-ever retrospective of the work of the pioneer in the avant-garde movement known as Suprematism. Through March 20. "Sephardic Horizons": An exhibition of ephemera collected from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures of the Iberian Peninsula during the 14th through the 18th centuries. Through July 15. "The People and the Book: Paintings and Rare Books From the Museum's Collection": An exhibition of works dating from the 19th to the 20th centuries and depicting people who write, read, or study from books. Through July 3. Free with museum admission, $4-6. 2911 Russell (at Pine), Berkeley, 510-549-6950.

Lawrence Hall of Science. "Forces That Shape the Bay": The museum's permanent science park exhibit explores new ways to understand the bay. Daily. "Prove It -- A ChemMystery": Kids and adults attempt to solve crimes using the basic forensic skills they learn step-by-step at the exhibit. Daily. Free with admission, free-$8.50. Centennial & Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, 510-642-5132.

Legion of Honor. "Doing and Viewing Art": Kids aged 7-12 and their families tour the Legion of Honor's galleries before taking part in a hands-on creative workshop led by a professional artist. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. Free with museum entrance fee, free-$8. "Big Kids/Little Kids": Children aged 3 1/2 to 6 years and their parents take a gallery tour and then participate in a related hands-on art activity. Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. Free with museum admission, free-$8. "Bonjour Monsieur Courbet!: The Bruyas Collection From the Musée Fabre Montpellier": An exhibition of objects from the collection of Alfred Bruyas, a 19th century art patron with a large collection of French artists including Courbet, Corot, Delacroix, Rousseau, and Gericault. Through April 3. Free-$12. Ford Free Tuesdays: Get in free to the Legion of Honor every Tuesday thanks to a grant from the Ford Motor Company. Tuesdays. Free. 100 34th Ave. (at Clement), 863-3330.

Oakland Museum of California. "What's Going On? -- California and the Vietnam Era": This large-scale exhibition traces the connections between the Bay Area and the Vietnam War through documents, photographs, and other memorabilia. Through Feb. 27. Free-$13. 1000 Oak (at 10th St.), Oakland, 510-238-2200,

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. "Tesoros Escondidos: Hidden Treasures From the Mexican Collections": Hundreds of artifacts never before exhibited publicly. Through June 26. Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley Campus, Berkeley, 510-643-7648,

Pier 45. "Amusing America": The evolution of modern amusement parks and their effects on the American cultural landscape are examined in this conglomeration of photographs, penny-arcade machines, and other ephemera. Daily, 10 a.m. Free. Fisherman's Wharf (Taylor & Jefferson), 552-1266.

Randall Museum. "Drop-In Art and Science Workshops": Each week kids and parents can participate in artistic activities that illuminate some aspect of science. Saturdays, 1 p.m. $3 per person. "Saturdays Are Special": Ongoing weekly drop-in, hands-on art and science workshops. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Free-$3. "Projects From the 23rd Annual San Francisco Middle School Science Fair": San Francisco's latest crop of student scientists show off their winning projects. Feb. 26-March 4. Free. 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), 554-9600.

San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum. "Maestro!: Photographic Portraits by Tom Zimberoff": The artist captures a generation of national and international conductors in his portraits. Daily. "150 Years of Dance in California": The exhibit spotlights over a century of dance in the Golden State with photographs, programs, and other ephemera. Daily. 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), 255-4800,

San Francisco's Maritime National Historical Park. "Sparks, Waves, & Wizards: Communication at Sea": The permanent exhibit presents artifacts and ephemera exploring the means of maritime communications. Daily. Free-$6. Hyde Street Pier (foot of Hyde near Jefferson), 561-6662.

San Jose Museum of Art. "Inside Out: Selections From the Permanent Collection": Highlights of the museum's 35th-anniversary exhibition include Mildred Howard's "Abode: Sanctuary for the Familia(r)," a chamber built of blue glass bottles, and Brian Goggin's "Desire for the Other," a couch stuffed with household appliances. Daily. Free. 110 South Market (at San Fernando), San Jose, 408-271-6840.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. "Quilt National 2003": An exhibition of 24 of the original 84 pieces that won awards at the "Quilt National" art show. Through Feb. 27. Free-$5. 110 Paseo de San Antonio (at 3rd St.), San Jose, 408-971-0323,

SF Maritime Museum. Permanent Collection of Ship Models: A big collection of figureheads, maritime paintings, photos, and artifacts. Daily. Free-$3. Fisherman's Wharf (at Polk), 556-3002.

SF Museum of Modern Art. "Roy Lichtenstein: All About Art": One of the most popular Pop artists of the 1960s is spotlighted in this retrospective. Through Feb. 22. "The Art of Design": A permanent exhibition of works in the museum's architecture and design collection, including works of graphic and industrial design (such as the famous Fillmore rock posters by Bonnie MacLean, Victor Moscoso, and Stanley Mouse). Daily. "Belles Lettres: The Art of Typography": An exhibition of posters, magazines, brochures, and books that take a new look at typography by designers such as Michael Bierut, Jennifer Morla, and Martin Venezky. Through April 17. "Matisse and Beyond: The Painting and Sculpture Collection": Magnificent works of painting and sculpture culled from SFMOMA's own collections provide a quick tour of modern art from Fauvism to Minimalism. Daily. "Between Art and Life: The Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Collection": The ongoing exhibition presents works from SFMOMA's own collections, with special installations on artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Anish Kapoor, Sherrie Levine, Brice Marden, Gordon Matta-Clark, Barry McGee, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, and Kara Walker. Daily. "2004 SECA Art Award": The exhibition features work by Bay Area artists Rosana Castrillo Diaz, Simon Evans, Shaun O'Dell, and Josephine Taylor, and was curated by a museum society organized to encourage exceptional emerging artists. Through May 15. Free with museum admission, free-$10. "Picturing Modernity: Selections From the SFMOMA Collection": An exhibition of photographs from SFMOMA's own collection that illustrate a wide range of photographic styles. Daily. "Architecture & Design Permanent Collection": An ongoing presentation featuring more than 100 works illustrating concepts in design and architecture. Daily. 151 Third St. (at Mission), 357-4000,

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