Du Right

Messing with the message

ONGOING 11/30-3/5/2006

After spending a year in jail for his involvement in China's pro-democratic protests, Wang Du moved to Paris, where he was confronted by the West's great cultural export: the media. Speaking no French, he was struck by the flood of images, which he brought to life in oversize sculptures that retained the altered perspectives of the photographs he worked from. The exhibit “Recent Work by Wang Du” features his most accomplished item, Défilé (Parade), consisting of 13 large-scale sculptures of military subjects — guns, tanks, generals — reproduced from the pages of Chinese magazines and arranged on a platform like a holiday float. A man pulling a slingshot heads the procession, his weapon-filled fist as big as his chest. It's honest to the perspective of the original shot, which, most likely, you'll be standing on: Du has littered the ground with photocopies of the magazine pages, which resemble dropped propaganda leaflets. Part of the fun of viewing Défilé is finding the pictures that correspond to each piece and checking Du's 3-D take on the flat images.

Also unexpectedly fun is Tapis Volant (Flying Carpet), for which Du took the somber Time magazine cover from Feb. 10, 2003, showing the disintegrating Columbia space shuttle, and reproduced it onto a giant — and I mean fucking huge — flying carpet. You are encouraged to take off your shoes and trample over the piece; like much of Du's art, Tapis features a childlike twist on a heavy subject.

“Wang Du” continues through March 5, 2006, in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Galleries, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.
— Michael Leaverton

Gaining on It

SAT 12/3

No one likes to be called stupid, but if you're a bodybuilder, people often assume that your muscles mean you have no brains. This is the challenge facing Mike Zorillo, the protagonist of No Pain, No Gain, a new film by Bay Area producer/director Samuel Turcotte. Preview screenings at bodybuilding competitions have gotten rave reviews, probably in part because Zorillo is a small-town champion with, as the press materials put it, “a genius IQ,” which he hopes to put to use fighting steroid abuse and defeating his nemesis, Jake Steel, a suspected juicer. For those about to pump iron, this flick salutes you. The movie screens at 3 p.m. at the UA Galaxy, 1285 Sutter (at Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $7.25-9.50; call 474-2865 or visit www.nopainnogainthemovie.com.
— Hiya Swanhuyser

A Little Art
At a big sale

FRI-SUN 12/2-4

The art world must face it: Many of us who love art live in apartments. We're happy to admire large-scale rolled steel sculptures and 12-foot-by-12-foot canvases, but we just can't pony up the palatial estates necessary to house them. Now, in a burst of practicality, a highly regarded nonprofit gallery presents “The Postcard Show,” its ninth annual exhibition of small works. Although the focus is on multiples, the pieces still fit through a regular-size doorway. Series of tiny paintings by Nancy Dempster, “boudoir art products” by Shawn Leong, and Christmas cards by Tonya Solley Thornton are just a few of the options, none of which exceeds shoebox dimensions. Items range in (jaw-dropping) price from $1 to $30.

“Postcard” opens at 6 p.m. on Friday (and continues through Sunday) at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-8855 or visit www.thelab.org.
— Hiya Swanhuyser

Honor Phil
And his removable brain

MON 12/5

George Saunders' satirical novel The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil features an otherworldly pack of patriots who seem to have just gotten the hang of intelligence and are trying it on for size. Invoking border security, deposing leaders, and “disassembling” the enemy, the gang moves with a single-minded simplicity that's reminiscent of lemmings rushing off a cliff (not to mention Kurt Vonnegut). Characters' bodies consist of junkyard and humanoid parts, with removable brains and tuna-can torsos, and the countries are just as odd: Inner Horner is large enough for one citizen at a time, and Greater Keller is a 6-inch band that circles Outer Horner. Although it's trained on our administration's pickle with homeland security, the book's biting satire is never obvious or belabored.

Saunders discusses Phil at 7:30 p.m. at USF's McLaren Complex, 2130 Fulton (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 422-6373 or visit www.artsci.usfca.edu.
— Michael Leaverton

Jewish American Barbie

SAT 12/3

Early in the documentary The Tribe: An Unorthodox, Unauthorized History of the Jewish People and the Barbie Doll … in About Fifteen Minutes, narrator Peter Coyote ponders an unexpected premise: “Maybe Barbie can explain something about how this generation responds to being Jewish.” Why Barbie? Because Ruth Handel, the doll's creator, was an American Jew. Though this fact does sustain the doc (which does run only 15 minutes), Tribe's guts concern the Jewish struggle. Creator Tiffany Shlain and Coyote lead a discussion after the film, which screens at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $18; visit www.tribethefilm.com.
— Michael Leaverton

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