In the group show "Social Insecurity: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be,"the frequency of the eternal absolutes, conflict and war, underscores the irony in the title: The future evoked is exactly like it used to be, expressed most powerfully by Al Farrow's stunning Skull Fragment of Heilige Krieg, a pagoda-like structure built from old weaponry. With gun barrels as columns and bullets as roof tiles, it recalls a piece of outsider art created during wartime using materials at hand, enlivened with a few significant finds: a chunk of the Berlin Wall, set like an icon in the center of the structure; a hunk of skull, presumably of the titular Krieg; a Nazi gas valve, stamped with the emotive swastika; and atop it all, perched like a star, a medallion of Jesus on the cross, centered in the cross hairs of a gun sight.
Other pieces you just want to grab hold of: Yoram Wolberger's Toy Soldier No. 3 (Crawling Soldier) is a jumbo replica of the child's toy, in the prone, combat-ready position, providing ground cover for gallery patrons. Created using 3-D digital scanning and sculpting, the figure retains the ripped plastic connectors of an original. Walter Robinson's wood and epoxy Cracker portrays a red-and-blue-state USA map as a frosted cookie with carefully aligned sprinkles. Hanging over the proceedings in colored neon is leonardogillesfleur's command to Remember the Future, a sentiment expressed eloquently by this batch of talented artists. The show runs through August 27 at the Catharine Clark Gallery, 49 Geary, Second Fl., S.F. Admission is free; call 399-1439 or visit www.cclarkgallery.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Ultraman is a phenomenon in Japan, one of the most recognizable characters in the world and second only to Godzilla. If you haven't gotten into him by now, you'll survive. But those who can't get enough of Eiji Tsuburaya's TV creation -- which spawned 14 sequels, movies, theme parks, restaurants, and about a billion toys -- can fill their tank at Ultramania, two days of TV shows and movies. There's even a live (gasp!) Ultraman stage show. The fest opens Friday at 7 p.m. with episode 1 of Ultraman Maxx, followed at 7:40 by the Bay Area premiere of Ultraman: The Next at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $5.50-8.50; call 621-6120 or visit www.thecastrotheatre.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Power to Pulp
Celebrate zine culture
Maybe I'm old, but yesterday's zines smoke today's blogs. (Fine, I'm old.) It's the medium, mostly; zine makers were constructing magazines, aware of the weight of that loaded word, while bloggers simply "post," conscious of little beyond their navels and static lines of sans-serif font. But while the form is down, it's not out: The SF Zine Fest celebrates the past and present of the pulp-and-ink DIY ethos, and indie publishing in general, with more than 30 exhibitors and workshops, along with a publishing panel featuring AK Press' Ramsey Kanaan and Manic D Press' Jennifer Joseph. Plus, watch free screenings of Horns and Halos, chronicling efforts to republish the damning Bush biography Fortunate Son, and $100 and a T-Shirt, a documentary of zine culture in the Northwest.
Events start at 11 a.m. at CELLspace, 2050 Bryant (at 18th St.), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.sfzinefest.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Less Is More
Gardening at night
It sounds like Yannis Adoniou originally wanted to do something really interesting. Apparently, the choreographer's intention was to restage (unstage, actually) the über-classical Les Sylphides so that the ballet, set in a moonlit park, would actually be performed in a moonlit park. Technical problems intervened, and the result is Less Sylphides, a reworked version taking place on a low stage on the grass, outdoors, at night, lit by the not-quite-as-romantic glow of phosphorescent bulbs in addition to any glow from the sky. But because Adoniou is the artistic director of Kunst-Stoff, balletomanes ultimately get two new Sylphides -- this one, and an indoor staging as part of the company's home season in September.
Not for Teacher
Teaching is such inspiring work. Not in the smarmy way you hear about so often, though; some of those who "can't do" well up with the desire mostly to drink beer and recount to their friends the horrible, irritating, and disgusting things their students have done. Luckily, some (bigger-hearted) people are inspired by the same occupation to produce art. "Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is" features the work of some 24 artists who have expanded upon, according to the Web site, "notes confiscated during 1999-2002." McSweeney's has just published the exhibit in book form, too. The show continues through Sept. 3 at Jack Hanley Gallery, 389 Valencia (at 19th St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 522-1623 or visit www.jackhanley.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser