2015 Fall Arts Preview

Circle the dates for the East Bay’s most enticing art shows, dance performances, film festivals, lit events, and musical gigs.


The environment-oriented work of photographer Edward Burtynsky comes to the Brower Center.

Photo courtesy of Edward Burtynsky

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Art Picks by DeWitt Cheng

Art/Act: Edward Burtynsky at the David Brower Center

Burtynsky, an eminent photographer who combines social inquiry with stunningly beautiful images of the human presence in the natural world, receives an award and an exhibition at this center for environmental activism. Drought is one of the themes represented in this show of works borrowed from private collections. Burtynsky: “My hope is that these pictures will stimulate a process of thinking about something essential to our survival; something we often take for granted-until it’s gone.” Other works examine the technological sublime and the price we pay for contemporary life in the oil, nuclear, quarrying, and ship-recycling industries. Sept. 18-Feb. 4, David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, www.BrowerCenter.org.

Cosmic Crush: Cheryl Calleri and Younhee Paik at Vessel Gallery

If the title suggests those orange-peel-projection maps of the globe, 3-D represented in 2-D, this show features the sculptural and the painterly nicely separated and whole. Calleri, known as a painter/printmaker (she was in a recent show at St. Mary’s College Museum of Art in Orinda), is showing orreries, contemporary versions of those 19th-century clockwork-driven models of planetary motion. (Will the newly popular but downgraded Pluto now be included? The ashes of the discoverer of Pluto, leaving our solar system aboard a NASA spacecraft, want to know.) Paik creates lyrical semi-abstract, semirepresentational paintings with veils of color denoting natural forces enveloping symbols of the quest for transcendence: ladders, mythic boats, cathedral floor plans. Through Sept. 26, Vessel Gallery, 471 25th St., Oakland, www.Vessel-Gallery.com.

Iconographies at PHOTO

The photographic portrait may have largely replaced oil portraits in the 19th century, forcing painters to find new territory, but photography has a subjective, imaginative tradition, too, along with its realist side. Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others paved the way for contemporary artists like the Bay Area’s Margaretta K. Mitchell, who poses models with props, poses, and costumes reminiscent of symbol-laden Renaissance and neoclassical paintings. Her alternate-art-history method may resemble that of the transgressive photographer J-P Witkin, but her one-of-a-kind, large-scale Polaroid prints are decidedly less NSFW. Botticelli and Ingres seem to have provided a couple of elegant prototypes. Sept. 3-Oct. 10, PHOTO, 473 25th St., Oakland, www.PhotoGalleryOakland.com.

Color Chant: Mel Prest and Shift: Connie Goldman at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary

Resplendent color and intricately rendered geometric form come together magically in the work of these two abstractionists. Prest uses linear patterns in two or three colors set against monochrome backgrounds that invoke the pink light of California and the blue light of Brooklyn, along with the sizzle of 1960s Op Art, a movement that she reinvents in her own “rebellious … systemless and intuitive” terms. Goldman moves beyond the rectangle with shaped paintings composed of layers of polygonal panels, each generally painted one color, with the topography of the layers and the optics of the colors, balancing harmony with contrast, “unity and stability” with “independence, transition and growth.” Through Sept. 24, Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 480 23rd St., Oakland, www.ChandraCerritoContemporary.com.


Dance Picks by Rita Felciano

Strangers Become Flowers, Randee Paufve

When Oakland choreographer Randee Paufve showed her septet Strangers Become Flowers as a work in progress at Western Sky Studio in Berkeley, it already looked in excellent shape. Inspired by a trip to Europe where Paufve encountered “many acts of kindness,” she began to ask questions about intimacy, empathy, and the chasm that divides people. In this world premiere, Paufve’s superb dancers are sure to provide some answers. Feb. 6-7 and 13-14, ODC Dance/San Francisco, Studio B, 3153 17th St., San Francisco, www.PaufveDance.org.

Mixed Program, Smuin Ballet

Smuin Ballet starts its new season with world premieres by Amy Seiwert and Ben Needham-Wood as well as two popular hits. Chinese-born Ma Cong looked at the Tom and Jerry cartoons for his high-speed French Twist, while Michael Smuin had gone to Shostakovich for the lushly romantic Bouquet. Now in its 21st year, the Smuin company dances better than ever, and Artistic Director Celia Fushille offers a fresh and appealing perspective on contemporary ballet. Yet she also leaves room for some of the late choreographer’s most beloved repertoire. Sept. 18-19, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, www.SmuinBallet.org.

Photo courtesy Trajal Harrell

The Ghost of Montpelier Meets the Samurai.

The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, Trajal Harrell

With his latest performance endeavor, choreographer Trajal Harrell stages an imaginary encounter between Japan’s Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of Butoh dance; Dominique Bagouet, the intense and prolific choreographer who shook up French dance in the 1980s; and Ellen Stewart, the pioneering founder of New York’s La MaMa Theater. Sounds far-fetched? Perhaps. But the idea of Harrell—a radical dance maker himself—tackling this trio of visionaries is simply too intriguing to miss. March 11-13, Cal Performances, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, www.CalPerformances.org.

Cinderella, Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra

The 2002 Cinderella by Bolshoi-trained Alexei Ratmansky—possibly the most gifted ballet choreographer working today—was his first full-length commission for the Mariinsky Ballet. Unlike others who have tackled this Prokofiev score, Ratmansky also tuned into the music’s darkness without depriving us of the charm, magic, and humor for this loveliest of fairytales. Oct. 1-4, Cal Performances, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, www.CalPerformances.org.


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