Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

What's up at the galleries this fall?

Fine Arts

"Faye" (2008) by Alika Cooper, oil on canvas, 21 x 21 inches. Photo: Courtesy Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art
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With summer waning and seasonal gallery shows on their last legs, you have a week or so before fall rolls out in earnest. What follows is a mix of late summer and early autumn offerings for the art-inclined.

Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art Alika Cooper: A Cold Wave. L.A. painter Alika Cooper probes the psychology of the women of the Silver Screen in her portraits of glamorous, unattainable Hollywood stars from the 1920s through the 70s, working from film stills. The elusive Greta Garbo, the once vital, impossibly toned Farrah Fawcett, a gamine Audrey Hepburn, the pouting girl-woman Brigitte Bardot, and the dramatic facial architecture of Faye Dunaway are all duly re-imagined in Cooper's rumination on the fleeting nature of fame, and the isolation that accompanies great beauty. There's something desolate about these leading ladies, former "it" girls for whom the hot glare of the spotlight, even life itself, has moved on. Cooper drives home this latter point by juxtaposing her gallery of aloof lovelies with derelict rural scenes detached from context and background. The instantly recognizable faces are beached once the adoration has faded, and as abandoned as the deserted blacktop with its neglected basketball hoop, or the milk barn stranded in a field with only a denuded tree to its name. Sept. 3-Oct. 17.

"Greta" (2009) by Alika Cooper, gouache on paper, 30 x 22 inches. Photo: Courtesy Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art

Scenius Gallery Here is the Room. Well, goodbye, Marilyn; hello, Jeffrey Dahmer. The provocative artist Tim Roseborough, utilizing video and digitally manipulated prints, has been turning out consistently intriguing works at Scenius Gallery, working off the grid and plowing the intersection between pop culture and harsh realities. Last spring, he took a tough, sobering look at the insidious impact of media hype and video games on our perception of war. His current installation, The Official 'Marilyn Monroe' (sic) Film, a slice of historical fiction that upends notions of authenticity and indecency, is a gender-bending recreation of a notorious sex film of Marilyn Monroe that was later exposed as a hoax. Shot in high definition that's aged to resemble 16mm stock, it features gender illusionist Raya Light and runs through August 29. For his fall show, Here is the Room, the artist reinterprets the haunted house and horror shtick, playing on our morbid fascination with the banality of evil and hideous crimes, especially those perpetrated by the "nice guy" next door. Roseborough constructs a crime scene and unfolds a macabre tale through a series of Polaroid snapshots, the now-obsolete format favored by notorious serial killers such as Dahmer, who were anxious to document their dubious achievements for posterity. Oct. 13-Nov. 14.

Stephen Wirtz Gallery Deborah Oropallo: Wild Wild West Show. Bemused clowns and cowgirls frolicking in chaps are images not readily associated with Berkeley-based artist Oropallo. In Guise, the artist's quietly subversive 2007 show at the de Young, she challenged assumptions about gender, fantasy and hierarchy by layering photographs of modern women, scantily dressed in sexually provocative costumes, with formal portraits of accomplished men of position and influence in 17th and 18th-century paintings. In that case, she has said, the work was about "women being sexually overt, about bondage, sex and power." She merged those images of women in thematic costumes selling fetish in order to "to elevate maids, widows, nurses and brides above the rank-and-file, and make them the new royalty." This time out, she's gone to the rodeo, literally – she attends one every summer – to examine pop notions of a mythical West. Oropallo's love of pageantry, costume, adornment and layered imagery is the common denominator in both bodies of work, but it's what the transformation represents that's her true subject. What's concealed is just as important as what's exposed in this series of photo-based, digitally constructed paintings on aluminum that resemble apparitions. It's as if she mentally dresses up and undresses her subjects; look close – those mini-skirted girls with lassos are wearing garter belts and lacy pink bras. Sept. 10-Oct. 24.

From "Talking to yourself is very important," Pawel Kruk's solo exhibition at David Cunningham Projects. Photo: Courtesy David Cunningham Projects

Haines Gallery Julia Oschatz. Downright strange and kind of wondrous, German mixed-media artist Oschatz's videos and paintings center on the Wesen, an imaginary character that roams her landscapes like an alien separated from its spacecraft. In need of a new wardrobe and a map, Wesen (German for "being" or "essence") is a genderless, gray human hybrid creature with an animal head, no mouth and hard, boxy shoes who wanders blindly into situations involving spraypaint cans and celestial orbs. Sept. 3-Oct. 17.

David Cunningham Projects Pawel Kruk - Talking to yourself is very important. Kruk, a Polish installation artist living in San Francisco, is something of a scavenger and a major-league fabulist. His latest exhibition incorporates video, projected images, letterpress prints, paintings, newspapers clippings and an obscure Japanese novel for an assemblage that includes surreal performance videos and slide projections. Though his work has frequently involved reenactments or outright fabrications in which he adopts the personae of mega-athletes such as Bruce Lee or Michael Jordan, here he weaves bizarre fiction out of unrelated subjects such as electrocuted sheep, lynching and WWII, to form a meditation on fate, celebrity and the role of the artist. Aug. 20-Sept. 19.

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