Our critics weigh in on local exhibits

"Inhabited." Bay Area painter Aaron Petersen starts with a sheet of aluminum and lets his oils flow and pool on the surface. Then he picks up a brush for the detail work, dabbing colorful swoops and whorls, often tightly grouped, resulting in bubbly, smoking abstractions, a cross between the trippy and the scientific. "The marks I make reference living in a contemporary urban environment," he says. "I am intrigued by how individual parts stand alone, and how the dynamics change when grouped together." Through March 18 at the Braunstein/Quay Gallery, 430 Clementina (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 278-9850 or visit www.bquayartgallery.com. (Michael Leaverton) Reviewed Feb. 15.

"Under the Crooked Bough, We Stopped to Catch Our Breath." CCA grads Marci Washington and Alika Cooper each employ their own brand of faux-naive style to illustrate scenes from works of literary fiction. Washington's paintings of ghostly-pale figures, lonely manor houses, and eerie, disembodied hands are clearly inspired by some Gothic novel, and owe a debt to the whimsical yet macabre illustrations of Edward Gorey. Deceptively simple, their flat black backgrounds and reductive lines look unfinished and awkward, but suggest the openness and brevity of the mind's eye. Cooper's works are similarly fragmentary, but while Washington's look almost folksy, Cooper's feel more contrived, like the work of a skilled painter trying to paint poorly. Her portraits of women resemble bad copies of celebrity head shots and appear to be titled accordingly. The woman in Cybil looks like a pre-Moonlighting Cybill Shepherd, while the face in Jane 1 could be that of a young Jane Fonda. The works evoke adolescent idolatry, that ambivalent state in which it's not clear if the desired is the person you want or the person you want to be. Unfortunately for Cooper, it's well-trod ground, most notably by painter Karen Kilimnik, who has been mining teenage ardor with much more insight for years. While Washington and Cooper make pleasing paintings, they fail to push beyond a rather conventional vision of the relationship between literature and the imaginary. Through April 23 at the Receiver Gallery, 1314 Eighth Ave. (at Irving), S.F. Admission is free; call 504-7287 or visit www.receivergallery.com. (Sharon Mizota) Reviewed Feb. 22.

"Vulcan." When Marcel Duchamp shocked gallery patrons by putting a urinal on display, the definition of art was forever changed. Ninety years later, we're slightly more able to recognize the existence of art beyond the confines of a museum. Some of the most compelling outsider pieces of the past few decades have come from cop-dodging graffiti artists, who risk arrests and fines for the sake of self-expression. Among the most enigmatic of these is New York native Vulcan, who made his name painting underpasses and subway trains, but who now steps within institutional walls for an eponymous solo gallery show. Though best known for his visual art, Vulcan is also an accomplished writer, a one-time heavy metal singer, a DJ, a producer, a competitive videogamer, and an erstwhile professional motorcycle racer. Despite his corporate patrons (like Google and Sun Microsystems) and his ivory-tower lectures on urban art (at Harvard, Yale, NYU, and Columbia), Vulcan keeps his street cred intact -- thanks, no doubt, to his personal style. "You have to break the rules, then make up new ones," he told HipHop-Network.com. "But it has to make sense; it can't just be a lot of lines and arrows. That doesn't necessarily make a style, just 'cause it's complicated. It has to be a language." Through March 4 at the Luggage Store, 1007 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971 or visit www.luggagestoregallery.org. (Maya Kroth) Reviewed Feb. 15.

Also Showing

Galleries

Braunstein/Quay Gallery. "Inhabited": Through March 15. 430 Clementina (at Fifth St.), 278-9850, www.bquayartgallery.com.

Brian Gross Fine Art. "Ricochet: New Paintings": Recent work by Amy Trachtenberg. Through March 31. 49 Geary (at Kearny), 788-1050.

Bucheon Gallery. "Ken Kirsch": New paintings. Artist's reception is Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Through March 25. 389 Grove (at Gough), 863-2891, www.bucheon.com.

California Academy of Sciences. "Hotspot: California on the Edge": Through Aug. 31. 875 Howard (at Fifth St.), 750-7145, www.calacademy.org.

Center for Sex & Culture. "My Favorite Erotic Photographs": Through Feb. 28. 398 11th St. (at Harrison), 255-1155, www.sexandculture.org.

City Hall. "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital: 100 Years of Caring for San Francisco": Photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia from the hospital, collected over the past 100 years and curated by Gladys Hansen. Through March 31. 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl. (at Fulton), 554-5184.

Creative Growth Art Center Gallery. El Plato Está Caliente!": Group show curated by Juan Carlos Quintana. Through March 1. 355 24th St. (at Broadway), Oakland, 510-836-2340, ext. 15.

Creativity Explored. "Drawing the Line": Exhibition of works in charcoal, pencil, and graphite by artists with developmental disabilities. Through March 2. 3245 16th St. (at Dolores), 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org.

The Drug Store Gallery. "The Ornamental Figure": New paintings by Heather Robinson. Through March 15. 3149 Mission (at Precita), 282-0544.

Gallery 16. "Natural History": New paintings by Elliot Anderson. Feb. 24-March 31, 6 p.m. 1616 16th St. (at Rhode Island), 626-7495.

Gallery Paule Anglim. "Recent Objects/Images/Projects": Through Feb. 25. 14 Geary (at Kearny), 433-2710, www.gallerypauleanglim.com.

Giant Robot. "The Jingi : Japanese Yakuza Spirit": New sculpture by Yukinora Dehara. Opening reception is Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25-March 22. "Two Years": Group show including work by Andrew Schoultz, Brendan Monroe, Bwana Spoons, David Horvath, David Choe, David Magdaleno, Deth P. Sun, Ian Johnson, Jacob Magraw-Mikelson, Jeana Sohn, John Pham, Kelly Tunstall, Kozyndan, Martin Cendreda, PCP, Saelee Oh, and Sun-Min Kim. Through Feb. 22. 622 Shrader (at Haight), 876-4773, www.gr-sf.com.

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