Our critics weigh in on local exhibits

"Big Deal & Blow Up," "Extraordinary Exhibitions: Broadsides From the Collection of Ricky Jay," and "Leon Borensztein and His Friends: A Look at Creative Growth Artists and Their Work." Three unconnected shows and a recently commissioned interactive sculpture explore a wide range of expressions and media. Visually, the super-size "Big Deal," with large-scale works from a quintet of artists, dwarfs viewers with its sheer mass. And while we perked up our ears at the mere mention of Johnston Foster's "coterie of sculptural critters and home furnishings" and photographs of Jim Denevan's crop circlelike sand drawings done on Northern California beaches, what we're really dying to see is Michael Arcega's Spanish galleon made entirely from manila folders, El Conquistadork, which actually embarked on a short voyage (with the artist onboard) across Tomales Bay. In addition to these monster-size works, the extraordinary playbill collection of sideshow scholar Ricky Jay is on view. Among the highlights are colorful depictions of typical entertainers from the time, such as a cannon ball juggler, a flea circus, and a female magician. The party continues with Leon Borensztein's photographic portraits of developmentally disabled artists from Oakland's Creative Growth Art Center standing next to their own work. The pièce de résistance, however, is Yerba Buena's latest commission, Blow Up by local hero Scott Snibbe, an interactive piece (part of "Big Deal") that transforms patrons' breath into what press materials describe as a "gallery-sized field of wind." Through April 3 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free-$12; call 978-2787 or visit (Jane Tunks) Reviewed Jan. 19.

"The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand 1350-1800." Religion's so controversial in San Francisco that spats periodically erupt over the nondescript cross atop Mount Davidson. So it may be challenging for us locals to understand the thrall that Buddhism has held over Thailand's visual arts. In a country of bright flowers and green mountains and sapphire water, what have the people painted and sculpted repeatedly? The Buddha, in bronze and sandstone, in murals and jewelry and temple objects, always smiling the gentle smile that denotes his inner peace and often capped with the unicorn hornlike "Thai flame" that symbolizes his spiritual energy. Yes, you'll see Buddhas aplenty in this groundbreaking new exhibit organized by the Asian Art Museum, but the charms of the 87 objects on display don't end there. The exhibition focuses on the classical arts of the kingdom of Ayutthaya, a great artistic center for more than 400 years until its artifacts were demolished by a 1767 Burmese invasion. But some amazing fragments live on in "The Kingdom of Siam," most of them culled from Buddhist temples -- richly carved figures of gods and goddesses, temple doors inlaid with elaborate mother-of-pearl designs. There are some secular trinkets, too, particularly magnificent brocade textiles shot through with gold. Through May 8 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 581-3500 or visit (Joyce Slaton) Reviewed Feb. 16.

"Life Cycle Analysis." This earnest installation by NoMe Edonna, Ricardo Richey, and Andrew Schoultz (members of a graffiti team called the Gestalt Collective) is designed to raise awareness about the staggering amounts of waste generated by our culture of consumption. A tsunami of trash pours forth from an obsolete TV set and towers over the entrance to the exhibition, sweeping up plastic products and Styrofoam peanuts in its wake. The room's corners sport dystopian wall drawings of brick factories belching smoke, razed trees, and fields of billboards, while a cardboard cyclone stretches to the ceiling from a barge in the center of the room. The show verges on preachy -- the walls are stenciled with alarming facts about the sheer volume of garbage we produce and the inadequacies of recycling -- but it sure is effective. Through April 16 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 626-2787 or visit (Adrienne Gagnon) Reviewed March 30.

"Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective" and "Robert Bechtle Prints." The middle-class slopes of Potrero Hill and the suburban roads of Alameda don't exactly scream with picturesque possibility, but painter Robert Bechtle has spent his life turning them into art. Using the mundane as fodder for his masterpieces, Bechtle finds riveting subjects in the most ordinary of things. The everyday-ness of his paintings brings with it a familiarity that is tangible, but the uncanny exactitude of his lines, shadows, and sun rays is what makes his landscapes so realistic and inviting. A Bay Area native with an artistic career that spans half a century, the 72-year-old painter is now having his first major retrospective at SFMOMA. Bechtle's career, however, has not been limited to painting: Crown Point Press shows a survey of his prints, which range from lithographs made in his garage to traditional woodblock prints made in China. "Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective" runs through June 5 at SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 357-4000 or visit "Robert Bechtle Prints" runs through April 29 at Crown Point Press, 20 Hawthorne (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is free; call 974-6273 or visit (Hiya Swanhuyser) Reviewed Feb. 16.

"Shopdropping: Experiments in the Aisle." Various artists sneakily subvert the retail juggernaut for this guerrilla group show. Packard Jennings handcrafted a Benito Mussolini action figure, complete with blister card, and recorded his exchange with a baffled Wal-Mart cashier at his attempt to purchase it. Marijke Jorritsma worked with the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco to produce charming ceramic doppelgängers for canned goods and dish soap that they then "reverse shoplifted" onto supermarket shelves. Text artists were invited to create their own "tags" for clothing, inserting haikus and snarky platitudes ("I'll feel so much better when my life resembles that of someone better than I") in place of fabric care instructions. The projects on view are by turns hilarious and heartwarming, infusing corporate commercialism with a much-needed dose of humanity. Through April 10 at Pond, 324 14th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is free; call 437-9151 or visit (Adrienne Gagnon) Reviewed March 30.

Also Showing

Galleries Amaru Gallery. "Seres y Brotes / Sprouts and Beings": Outsider art from Llane Alexis. Opening reception is March 13 from 7 to 10 p.m. Through April 13. 510 Valencia (at 16th St.), 552-3787,

Andrea Schwartz Gallery. "John Bonick and Patrick Dintino": Mixed media and oils. Through March 31. 333 Bryant (at Second St.) (Suite 180), 495-2090.

Anthony Meier Fine Arts. "Robert Beck": New work including photography, sculpture, painting, and drawing. Opening reception is April 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. April 1-May 13. 1969 California (at Octavia), 351-1400,

Artist-Xchange. "Artists Opening XI": Monthly mixed media group show. Opening reception is March 4 from 7 to 10 p.m. Through March 31. "Sculpture Garden": Indoor group show featuring the work of more than 20 local sculptors. Through April 2. 3169 16th St. (at Guerrero), 864-1490,

ARTworkSF. "Art Is (Still) Life": Group show of still life work by Christopher Flach, Peggy Snider, Lois Llewellyn, Mary Lou D'Auray, Pauline Crowther Scott, Add Bonn, Sue Averell, Pat Wipf, Andres LeRoux, Phyllis Rockne, Michael Stahlbrodt, Rob Nye, Dimitri Kourouniotis, AnneKarin Glass, Gianfranco Paolozzi, Christian Tsouo-Harvey, and Mira White. Opening reception is Jan. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Through April 19. 69 Green (at Front), 673-3080,

Berkeley Public Library/Central Branch. "Overcoming Faceless Labor: Farmworkers Through the Lens of Almudena Ortiz": Ortiz' compelling black and white photographs highlight the Mexican immigrant farmerworkers' experience. Through June 15. Free. 2090 Kittredge (at Shattuck), Berkeley, 510-981-6100.

Blue Room Gallery. "Maiko Sugano: Works of Domestic Art": Solo show of sculptural furniture. Through April 3. 2331 Mission (at 19th St.), 282-8411.

Brian Gross Fine Art. "Sono Osato: Angels in Dust": New paintings, assemblages, and sculptures by Sono Osato. Opening reception is March 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Through April 30. "Belonging: Selected Works": Photography by Meridel Rubenstein. Opening reception is March 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Through April 30. 49 Geary (at Kearny), 788-1050.

Cafe Royale. "Balikbayan: Return(ing) to Country/Home": Photography show of Gloria G. Galang. Opening reception is March 3 from 8 p.m. until midnight. Through April 3. 800 Post (at Leavenworth), 447-7901.

California College of the Arts/SF. "Side x Side": An exhibit of PlaySpace. Opening reception is March 30 from 6 to 9 p.m. March 30-April 8. 1111 Eighth St. (at Wisconsin), 703-9500.

Creative Growth Art Center Gallery. "Optical Illusion": Group show featuring 2-D and 3-D work, thumb-a-tropes, zoetropes, and fantast-a-scopes created by artists with disabilities. Opening reception is March 10 from 5 to 8 p.m. Through April 15. 355 24th St. (at Broadway), Oakland, 510-836-2340, ext. 15.

Edo Salon. "Spring at Edo": Screenprints by Sante Johnson and Justin Farmer. Opening reception is March 18 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Through May 23. 601 Haight (at Steiner), 861-0131.

Exploratorium. "Natural Reflections": New work by John Slepian, Claudia Hart, Binh Danh, and Vanessa Renwick. Through May 30. Free with museum admission. 3601 Lyon (at Marina), 397-5673,

Firehouse Gallery. "Fostering Art": Photography and written work by foster kids. Opening reception is April 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.; artists will be available to photograph visitors on April 9 and 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. April 3-23. Marina & Buchanan, 441-3400,

Fraenkel Gallery. "Peter Hujar: Night": This exhibition includes approximately 35 photographs taken by the author at night in New York City between 1974 and 1985. Through April 30. Free. 49 Geary (at Kearny) (Fourth Fl.), 981-2661.

Frey Norris Gallery. "Mathematical Perfection: Debut of Ted Vasin": Solo exhibition of paintings by Ted Vaisin. Through April 1. 456 Geary (at Taylor), 346-7812,

Galeria Tempest. "Pez con Pluma": Mixed media on paper by Emma Luna. Through April 14. 1742 Polk (at Washington), 567-7452.

Gallery 16. "As If" and "Garden": New work by Lauren Davies and Carol Selter. Through April 22. 1616 16th St. (at Rhode Island), 626-7495.

Hackett-Freedman Gallery. "American Modern": Work by Milton Avery, Arthur Dove, John Graham, Marsden Hartley, Hans Hofmann, Walt Kuhn, Gaston Lachaise, John Marin, Elie Nadelman, Georgia O'Keeffe, Max Weber, and others. Opening reception is Feb. 3 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Through April 2. 250 Sutter (at Kearny) (Fourth Fl.), 362-7152,

Hosfelt Gallery. "Difficult to Swallow": Sculpture by Timothy Horn. Through April 16. "Still Life": Photo montages by John O'Reilly. Through April 16. 430 Clementina (at Fifth St.), 495-5454.

Irwin Center Gallery. "Rhythmic Seasons": Metal/textile BFA exhibition. Opening reception is March 30 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 30-April 1. 5215 Broadway (at College), Oakland.

Istituto Italiano di Cultura. "Bruno Munari ­ Graphic Artist, Designer, Inventor": An exhibition of various objects. Through April 20. 425 Washington (at Battery), 788-7142,

Jack Hanley Gallery. "Dealing Kindly With Insects in the Home": Group show with work by Saskia Leek, Thomas Ravens, and Sue Tompkins. Through April 2. 395 Valencia (at 15th St.), 522-1623.

Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. "Our Mother Mary Found": New work by Beth Grossman. Through March 31. 3200 California (at Presidio), 292-1200.

La Maison des Artistes. "The Rhythm & Culture of Art": Paintings by Bernard-Emmanuel Beneito. Opening reception is Dec. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. Daily. 333 Hayes (at Franklin), 621-4813,

Lola Gallery. "Ghetto Metro": Multimedia installation by Sirron Norris. Through April 9. 2517 Mission (at 21st St.), 401-6800.

Micaela Gallery. "Open Water": New paintings by Christo Braun. Through March 31. 333 Hayes (at Franklin), 551-8118,

Mission 17. "We All Must Play Our Parts": Artist Julia Page deconstructs the function presidential daughters serve in establishing the commander in chief's image. The opening reception is Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Through April 2. 2111 Mission (at 17th St.), Suite 401, 336-2349.

Modernpast Gallery. "Solace": Photography by Kristin Satzman. Through March 30. 675 Chenery at Diamond, 333-9007.

Newmark Gallery. "Le cycle d'un nom et d'une forme": New work by Christian de Cambiaire. Through April 16. 251 Post (at Stockton), No. 412, 392-3692,

Octavia's Haze Gallery. "Handblown Art Glass From Italy, Seattle, and the Bay Area": Art glass vases, tableware, and other objects from a variety of artists. Daily. 498 Hayes (at Octavia), 255-6818.

Place Pigalle. "Googly Eyes": Photographs by Salvatore Noto. Opening reception is March 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. Through April 19. 520 Hayes at Octavia, 552-2671,

Robert Koch Gallery. "Nathan Baker: People at Work": Solo photography show. Through April 30. "Bill Owens: Leisure": Solo photography show. Through April 30. 49 Geary (at Kearny), 421-0122.

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. "Fourth Annual Installation Award Exhibition": Breath Holes by Desiree Holman. Through April 2. "Wedding Portraits": Poster exhibit celebrating the first anniversary of the controversial same-sex weddings at City Hall. Through May 12. 401 Van Ness (at Larkin), 554-6080,

San Francisco Center for the Book. "Journey to the Source: Handmade Books From Cuba": Book art from Ediciones Vigía. Through May 6. 300 De Haro (at 16th St.), 565-0545,

Schurman Fine Art Gallery. "Paul Jacoulet": Woodblock prints by the late artist. April 1-May 30. 1659 San Pablo (at Virginia), Berkeley, 510-524-0623.

SF Camerawork at New Langton Arts. "En Masse: Work by Camerawork Members": Photography show juried by Jack Hanley, Corey Keller, Trena Noval, and Mabel Wilson, featuring work by Caitlin Atkinson, Elizabeth Bernstein, Angela Buenning, Ernie Button, Sparky Campanella, German Herrera, Anna Kuperberg, William Laven, Jessamyn Lovell, Mark Luthringer, Valerie Mendoza, Andrew Moisey, Apollonia Morrill, Caroline Nicola, Matthew Shain, and Albert Winn. Opening reception is March 1 from 5 to 8 p.m. Through April 2. 1246 Folsom (at Eighth St.), 863-1001,

SFSU Campus/Cesar Chavez Student Center Gallery. "Strains of Thought": Group show of collage, montage, and assemblage featuring work by Kamau Amu Patton, Amy Morrell, Kristen Chappa, Andre Sibayan, Neil Stewart, Lizabeth E. Rossof, Saundra Castillo, Ciriaco Sayoc, Dana Kline, and Katie Cross; curated by Gina Basso. Through March 30. 1650 Holloway (at 19th Ave.), 338-2580.

SFSU Campus/Fine Arts Building. "Afrocuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003": Group show of work by Cuban artists. Through March 30. 1600 Holloway (at 19th Ave.), 338-6535.

Shooting Gallery. "Surreal Populism": New work by Anthony Ausgang and Van Arno. Opening reception is March 10 from 7 to 11 p.m. Through March 31. 839 Larkin (at O'Farrell), 931-8035,

Steel Gallery. "Spring Fling": New work by Eric Michael Corrigan and Tina Lauren Vietmeier. April 5-May 28. 3524 Sacramento (at Laurel), 885-1655,

Studio Gallery. "Delicious": Group show featuring art inspired by food. Through April 3. 1718A Polk (at Clay), 931-3130,

Traywick Contemporary. "Wall Works": Site-specific wall art by Amy Berk, Charles Goldman, Benicia Gantner, Kelsey Nicholson, and Stas Orlovski. Through March 31. 895 Colusa (at Solano), Berkeley, 510-527-1214,

Urbis Artium Gallery. "A World of Influence": An exhibit by the Los Angeles art group Workhorse Collective spotlighting the urban art form of graffiti. Opening reception is March 17 from 6 to 10 p.m. Through April 30. 140 Second St. (at Minna), 369-9404,

Valencia Street (between 20th and 22nd). "Double Take: A Billboard Project": Art billboards by Felipe Dulzaides in various locations; currently there is one at Valencia and 22nd Street. Daily. 626-5416. Valencia Street between 20th and 22nd.

Varnish Fine Art. "Superstitions": Group show featuring illustrators Chris Buzelli, Charles Glaubitz, Joshua Gorchov, David Groff, Jonathon Krause, and Martha Rich. Through April 8. 77 Natoma (at Second St.), 222-6131,

Museums Asian Art Museum. AsiaAlive: "Classical Arts of Thailand": Watch traditional Thai painting techniques demonstrated, make your own Thai-inspired jewelry, and see Thai performing arts videos at this supplement to "The Kingdom of Siam." Thursdays-Sundays, noon. Continues through May 1. " Arts of Asia Spring 2005": Learn about the arts of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas in 15 weeks of lectures. Fridays, 10 a.m. Continues through April 29. $100-125 for series; $10 per lecture. "Sui Jianguo: The Sleep of Reason": An exhibition showcasing the work of Sui, one of the most famous sculptors working in China today. Through April 24. Free with museum admission, free-$10. Asian Art Museum Storytelling: Each weekend the museum leads a family-oriented tour through a particular exhibit, followed up by a retelling of stories related to the exhibits. Sundays, 1 p.m.; First Saturday of every month, 1 p.m. Free with museum admission, free-$10. "In a New Light: The Asian Art Museum Collection": A display of more than 2,500 objects from the museum's permanent collection explores the major cultures of Asia. Daily. Free with museum admission, free-$10. "The Kingdom of Siam: Art From Central Thailand, 1350-1800": The collection of 87 rare works from Thailand (including ancient gold ceremonial objects, temple furnishings, jewelry, and textiles) is the first display of Thai classical art in the United States in 25 years. Through May 18. Free with museum admission, free-$10. "Family Art Encounter": Drop in to make arts and crafts pieces related to the museum's current exhibits. First Saturday of every month, 1 p.m.; First Tuesday of every month, 11 a.m. Free. Target Tuesday Family Program: Each month this special family program presents an activity connected with Asian art and customs. First Tuesday of every month, 11 a.m. Free with museum admission, free-$10. Gallery Tours: Trained museum docents offer both general introductions to the museum's collections as well as tours that highlight special exhibitions. Tuesdays-Sundays, 11, 11:30 a.m., 1 & 2 p.m. Free with museum admission, free-$10. Architectural Tours: Learn about the transformation of the old San Francisco main public library into the Asian Art Museum's new quarters with this regular tour. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays, 12 & 2:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 12, 2:30 & 6:30 p.m. Free with museum admission, free-$10. 200 Larkin (at McAllister), 581-3500,

Berkeley Art Museum. First Impressions: Free First Thursdays: Check out a world of art and film with free entry to the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive each month. Thursdays, 11 a.m. Free. "Matrix 215: Althea Thauberger A Memory Lasts Forever": The photography and video installations from the Vancouver artist address popular culture, teen angst, and the role gender plays in forming identity. Through April 10. Free with museum admission, free-$8. "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens": The traveling exhibition spotlights Rubens' tremendous output of oil sketches with 35 sketches from the 17th century. Through May 15. Free-$10. "Blind at the Museum": An exhibition that investigates the nature of blindness, optical phenomena, and enjoying the visual arts despite vision problems. Through July 24. Free-$8. "Matrix 214: The Absence of Mark Manders": An exhibition of Netherlands-based artist Mark Manders' curious sculptures and installations. Through April 10. Free with museum admission, free-$8. 2626 Bancroft (at Telegraph), Berkeley, 510-642-0808.

Cable Car Museum. Permanent Exhibit: Located in a historic cable car powerhouse, the museum displays a variety of cable car gear, historic photographs, installations explaining how the cars work, and several antique vehicles. Daily. Free. 1201 Mason (at Washington), 474-1887.

California Academy of Sciences. "Astrobiology: Life in the Extreme": A permanent exhibition that explores the types of environments in the universe that could support life. Daily. 875 Howard (at Fifth St.), 750-7145,

California Historical Society Museum. "Poetry and Its Arts: Bay Area Interactions 1954-2004": An exhibition that traces the connections between poetry and the visual arts, with art by poets and art that focuses on poetry. Through April 16. Free-$3. 678 Mission (at Third St.), 357-1848.

California State Building Auditorium. "Sacred Lands, Sacred Traditions: The Arts of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas": Discover the vibrant arts of Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Himalayas in this lecture series with the Asian Art Museum's curator. Fridays, 10 a.m. Continues through April 29. $100-125 for series; $11 per lecture. 350 McAllister (at Larkin), 581-3701.

Cartoon Art Museum. "Small Press Spotlight Featuring Garret Izumi": A retrospective of over ten years of Izumi's career as a self-publisher of photography books, comics, and letterpress books. Through April 16. Free with museum admission, free-$6. "Contemporary Literary Comics: Selections From McSweeney's #13": An exhibition of comics work from 25 artists whose illustrations have appeared in the pages of the quarterly. Through May 22. 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), 227-8666,

Chabot Space & Science Center. "Mirror Mirror": Thirty-plus interactive exhibits from the Swiss science museum Technorama explore the properties of the looking glass. Through June 6. Free with museum admission, $9-13. "One Giant Leap: A Moon Odyssey": Take a simulated moon-walk, try on a space helmet, climb into a space capsule, and virtually land a lunar module in this exhibit. Daily. Free with museum admission, $9-13. "Astronomy in California 1850-1950: Telescope Makers, Telescopes, and Artifacts": Take a look at California's rich history in astronomy with this display of telescopes, astronomy history documents, and other ephemera. Daily. Free with museum admission, $9-13. "Skywise -- Astronomy Cartoon Exhibit": Help your child understand that vastness and majesty of space with this exhibit of astronomy comic strips. Daily. Free with museum admission, $9-13. "Destination Universe": Take a virtual journey from the sun to the end of the cosmos with exhibits on nebulae, space travel, black holes, and moving galaxies. Daily. Free with museum admission, $9-13. "Mars Encounter": The National Aeuronautics and Space Administration sponsors this exhibit on travel to Mars, which includes data on current and past missions, a giant tactile Mars globe, and martian meteorites. Daily. Free with museum admission, $9-13. 10000 Skyline (at Joaquin Miller) (Joaquin Miller Park), Oakland, 510-336-7300.

Chinese Culture Center. "Celebrating Spring: The Chinese Folk Art Way": Explore the objects that help the Chinese people welcome spring each year. Through May 1. Free. 750 Kearny (at Washington) (Third Fl.), 986-1822.

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,

The Holocaust Center of Northern California. " Holocaust Center of Northern California": The newly opened center's first exhibit showcases its facilities, including a library with more than 15,000 historical volumes, a reading room for screening documentaries and holding educational talks, and ongoing displays of the center's thousands of photographs and artifacts. Tuesdays, Thursdays, 1-6 p.m.; Mondays, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. free. 121 Steuart (at Mission), 777-9060,

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. "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. "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. 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. "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. "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. "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. "Windows Facing East: The Japanese Influence on European and American Prints": The exhibit spotlights the explosive affect of the Japanese aesthetic in the West after 1853. Through April 30. Free with museum admission, 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.

Museo ItaloAmericano. "A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions": A 60-year retrospective of the work of the San Francisco draftsman who spent a lifetime drawing fantastic imaginary buildings and cities. Through May 8. Free-$3. Fort Mason, Bldg. C (Marina & Buchanan), 673-2200.

Pacific Heritage Museum. "Vision and Virtuosity": Exhibition of contemporary paintings featuring the works of over 30 artists from China. Through June 25. 608 Commercial (at Montgomery), 399-1124.

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. 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), 554-9600.

San Francisco Fire Museum. San Francisco Fire Museum Permanent Exhibits: Included among the items on display at this museum are antique fire extinguishers, old uniforms, cast-iron replicas of historic fire engines, hooks, ladders, and other ephemera. Daily. Free. 655 Presidio Avenue (at Bush), 563-4630.

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. "Painted Men: Chinese Opera Backstage": A behind-the-scenes look at Chinese opera through artifacts such as props, costumes, scripts, photographs, and musical instruments. Through June 4. "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.

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. "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. "Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective": The photorealist paintings of Robert Bechtle. Through June 5. "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. "Image, Body, Text: Selected Works by Gary Hill": Multimedia artist Gary Hill has taken the unholy union of the naked body and video and made it high art. Through May 30. $6-$10. "Architecture & Design Permanent Collection": An ongoing presentation featuring more than 100 works illustrating concepts in design and architecture. Daily. "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. 151 Third St. (at Mission), 357-4000, Zeum. "Reality Check": Young people get inspired to question their preconceptions about the world with this slate of arts, media, and technology tools. Through May 8. Free with museum admission. "Our Home: Chinese and American Children's Art on the Environment": A multimedia showcase of four collaborative art projects between the children of China and the United States that examine various aspects of the ecosystem. Through April 10. Free with museum admission, free-$7. "Toyz": Hands-on activities teach kids about the latest in tech toys. Daily. Free with museum admission, free-$7. 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 777-2800.

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