Richmond Art Center
Richmond Art Center

Oakland Art Enthsiast: Victor Cartagena, “Sites/Sights of Intervention” at Richmond Art Center


Victor Cartagena, “Sites/Sights of Intervention” at Richmond Art Center

MARCH 28, 2014

Installations and artworks by local artist Victor Cartagena on view at Richmond Art Center in “Sites/Sights of Intervention” act almost as the artist’s autobiography. Appropriating imagery which reflect his own experiences and responses to world events to explore broader socio-political issues, Cartagena in many ways surrenders his private experiences and personal, difficult memories to public view to not only provide healing, but to facilitate meaningful conversation and perpetuate lasting change to the troubling issues and attitudes he has faced and witnessed.

At 19 Cartagena left his native El Salvador in 1985 and came alone to San Francisco to flee his country’s civil war. His early work drew upon these experiences, boldly exploring memories of that difficult time. Some of the most pressing themes his work expresses are the challenges and discriminations immigrants like himself endure in America. Since the beginning of the civil war, between 500,000 and one million El Salvadorans have come to America. Thus in many ways the artist tells their story while also making a powerful statement about all immigrant experience through his work. Passport portraits, strung together hanging from the ceiling and projected in grand scale in installations like “Transparencias” at the Center act as a combined symbol of travel and identity, but stripped from original intention, these floating and dislocated images of now anonymous persons are often interpreted with ominous undertones and solemn connotations.

Now living in San Francisco, Cartagena and his artwork are also influenced and informed by local struggles, and community concerns. Many of the artist’s works interpret and respond to pervasive issues in the region, like gang warfare. “Bang Bang Toy Gun,” an installation composed of several toy guns suspended from the ceiling, while a video image of one in a white hoodie that masks his face makes a panorama of the gallery space with a gun clutched tightly in his hands and pointed directly at the camera. It creates a foreboding and intimidating environment that speaks to a culture of violence and suspicion in America that has now seemed to trickle down even to the very young. Drawing parallels between “play” violence and real violence, Cartagena may be questioning how or whether one contributes to the other, or indeed simply if perpetrators of violence are able to comprehend the reality and severity of the situation.

“I go into a place of frustration ” says Cartagena, “and the only way I can do something, is just doing my art.” His work thus is both a kind of catharsis to heal and relinquish the affectations of the memory and also to relive in order to learn from it. Cartagena’s artwork has much to reveal about the world, and audiences have much to experience, and learn.

“Victor Cartagena: Sites/Sights of Intervention” will be at Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Avenue through May 30, 2014

KQED Arts: Collaborating with “The American Teenager”

Kristin Farr from KQED stopped by to view our latest exhibition, The American Teenager Project, a collection of photographs and audio recordings completed by 20 local teenagers.

Robin Bowman is a photojournalist who traveled the country interviewing teenagers about their lives in the early 2000s. She took their portraits to illustrate the interviews, and later published them in a book. Bowman’s portraits prove that a picture is worth many words. She skillfully captures moments and complex stories in single, black-and-white images. The project grew when Bowman began working with teens on another level, training them to conduct their own interviews and shoot portraits of their peers. The group of students currently working on the project are in Richmond where many of the portraits are on view in the bustling back hallway of the Richmond Art Center.

Read the full review here

Collaborating with ‘The American Teenager,” KQED Arts, January 31, 2014

San Francisco Chronicle: The Art of Living Black

The SF Chronicle 96 Hours cover story featured our exhibition The Art of Living Black. Writer Kimberly Chun stopped by the Richmond Art Center for a preview of the exhibition and spoke to some of the 50 artists who will be showing their work. We’re thrilled that our work hosting this long-running exhibition of established and emerging artists has received this major coverage!

It’s unique — there’s nothing else like this in Northern California. There’s no other place you can go every year and see a cross section of the area’s black artists.” 
— Oakland artist Ajuan Mance. 

Read the full story online.


Richmond Confidential: Black art exhibit returns to Richmond to showcase Bay Area artists

Black art exhibit returns to Richmond to showcase Bay Area artists

Nancy DeVille on December 20, 2013

An annual exhibition that showcases artwork from emerging and established African American artists will soon be on display at the Richmond Art Center.

Now in its 18th year, the Art of Living Black returns to Richmond Jan. 11 and will feature the work of more than 50 artists.  The event aims to give African American artists a voice and venue to showcase their work.

“It’s a unique experience to see all African American art from some artists that probably wouldn’t be shown anyplace else,” said Stephen Hopkins, one of the exhibition’s organizers.

The Art of Living Black is the only annual open exhibition and self guided art tour in the Bay Area to exclusively feature regional artists of African descent, according to the event’s organizers.

The artwork that has debuted at the event since its 1996 founding ranges from paintings and photographs to a variety of sculptures, all with common roots in African American history and experience.

But this year’s exhibit will be missing a familiar face. Melba Lazenby, an organizer described by colleagues as the event’s guiding force, died just days ago at age 62 after a five year battle with cancer.

The show will be dedicated to Lazenby’s memory.

“We were working to keep the Art of Living Black together,” said Hopkins, who is Lazenby’s brother. Hopkins’ wife Rae Louise Hayward co-founded the art show, and following her 2008 death, he and Lazenby took the torch to continue the work.

“Melba put in a lot of hard work and dedication into getting the artists and material ready to go” he said. “She was really dedicated to keeping the program alive.”

Richard Ambrose, executive director of the Richmond Art Center, said many artists were saddened to hear of her death.

“(Lazenby) was the energy and fireplug that kept the organization in tack,” Ambrose said.

Dana King, one of the artists whose work will be featured, says the show offers emerging artists informal mentors, a merging of experience and youth that helps keep each year’s exhibition fresh and creative while cultivating precocious talent.

“I’ve met a lot of people and learned a lot more about the art scene in the Bay Area by being in this show,” she said. “And we support and encourage one another, which to me is the most important thing.”

After 25 years as a broadcast journalist and 15 years with CBS San Francisco, King left her post to pursue her art career.

“We can’t wait for the art world to bestow upon us the mantle of acceptability,” she said. “We have stories to tell and we tell them very well with our art.

“We have to create our own way and that’s exactly what this show does.”


What: The 18th annual Art of Living Black will feature the work of more than 50 African American artists from around the Bay Area.

When: January 11- February 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday- Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The opening reception is 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 and artist panel discussions will be from noon- 2 p.m. Feb. 8 and 15. A special jazz art workshop will be from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.

Where: Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave. Richmond

Cost: free

For more information, call 510-620-6772 or visit


Richmond Confidential: Art event to showcase teen photography, give insight into growing up in Richmond

Art event to showcase teen photography, give insight into growing up in Richmond

Kevin N. Hume on December 19, 2013

Richmond High senior Francisco Rojas (pictured) became interested in photography at 15, but through his involvement in the American Teenager Project, he fell in love with the storytelling medium.

“This is powerful,” Rojas, 17, said. “As I got trained, I felt this was something that everybody should start doing, even if it’s a small city like Richmond.”

Rojas, along with 18 young photographers in Richmond, was trained by veteran New York-based photojournalist Robin Bowman to go into the community, interview teenagers and photograph them.

More than 100 portraits of the teens and the stories they shared with the budding photojournalists will be on display at the Richmond Art Center from Jan. 11 to March 7.

The exhibition features a two-part event on Feb. 1: a meet and greet reception with the project participants and “Unlock the Talk: The American Teenager Project in Richmond,” a discussion of the themes presented in the exhibition, co-hosted by the RYSE Youth Center. The reception starts at noon, and the discussion begins at 2 p.m. at the art center, located at 2540 Barrett Ave.

Julia Hollinger, executive producer for the American Teenager Project, said the idea was borne after her friend Bowman spent five years traveling across the country documenting the stories of more than 400 teenagers.

“I collaborated with (Bowman) on helping turn that collection into an uncensored book that was published and included all of the teenagers and most of the interviews,” Hollinger said. “After that experience, Robin felt very strongly that she wanted to carry on the tradition.”

Hollinger was a teacher in Richmond at the time and was able to get teens to tell their peers’ stories through workshops at the RYSE Youth Center.

The teens asked 22 questions of their subjects ranging from their opinions on violence to LGBT issues and challenges facing undocumented youth. Each portrait will include a transcribed interview, and 30 portraits will feature an audio interview.

Rojas, who has 16 portraits in the exhibit, said the project fed his passion.

“I kind of did go crazy over it,” he said. “I just liked the whole process. I’m definitely wanting to do photography as a living.”

WHAT: “Unlock the Talk: The American Teenager Project in Richmond”

WHEN: Gallery display, Jan. 11 through March 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reception and discussion event, Feb. 1 from noon to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Richmond Art Center, 510-620-6772,

The American Teenager Project,


East Bay Express: Reflecting on the work of Bella Feldman

Reflecting on the Work of Bella Feldman

A retrospective of the prolific Bella Feldman rounds up fifty years of her playful-yet-pessimistic sculptures, paintings, and collages.

By Sarah Burke

Oct 16, 2013

Bella Feldman’s work prompts reflection upon life and society with the same degree of intrigue and entertainment as a good science fiction novel. Her sculptures conflate aspects of the realistic and the whimsical in a way that prompts poignant comparisons. One of her sculptures alone would allude to a surreal landscape where life manifests itself in massive steel metaphors. The survey of her work, now on view at the Richmond Art Center, invites viewers to enter that landscape, immersing them in a vast collection of Feldman’s mixed-media sculptures, paintings, and collages that overflow out of the gallery space.

Previously a professor of sculpture at California College of the Arts, Oakland-based Feldman has been creating for fifty years now, and this is the first retrospective of her fruitful career. Although her work has varied some in form and medium, her recognizable dark humor pervades every piece.

Bella Feldman and her sculpture Diad.

Centered in RAC’s gallery is Feldman’s sculptural series War Toys Redux, which first lures in viewers with enticing form, then stabs at them with pessimistic snark inspired by the Gulf War. Arranged in triangle formation like a fleet of industrial insects, these low sculptures combine violent weapon-like forms of steel with eerie mad-scientist shapes of glass. They are akin to the contents of a warlord’s Freudian dreamscape, ironically emphasizing the fetishization and playfulness of war. At the same time, they comment on the average American’s heavily mediated experience of armed conflict, and our resulting inability to distinguish between myth and reality in regards to it.

On the gallery walls above hangs another series entitled Flasks of Fiction, which is less overtly political, but equally as affecting. Inspired by lanterns in Turkish mosques that Feldman encountered during her extensive travels, the torso-sized sculptures hang in groupings, with lights above echoing threatening silhouettes of their forms. Each involves a sadistic-looking steel harness encasing a fluid glass form that seems to take its shape from its constraints. Although elegant in execution, the pieces manifest the uncomfortable tension present in relationships of vulnerability and dominance, a subject consistent throughout Feldman’s career.

The works in which Feldman combines steel and glass stand out among the 85 pieces chosen for the show, as they repeatedly renegotiate the correspondence of force and fragility. “War Horse,” a large sculpture from the series War Toys III, a collection with which Feldman revisits her “war toys” theme on a blown-up scale, imposes on the viewer with its heavy wheels and thick, arching neck. From its highest point, however, hangs a graceful glass droplet — an Achilles heel. With Feldman, there is never just one side to the argument. Bella: A 50-year survey of the work of Bella Feldman demonstrates her keen ability to maneuver between dichotomies, creating poetic works of hard-hitting social commentary.

Through November 15 at the Richmond Art Center. 510-620-6772 or


San Francisco Chronicle: Bella Feldman: Sculptor gets a retrospective

Bella Feldman: Sculptor gets a retrospective

Kenneth Baker

Oct. 9, 2013

For decades, octogenarian New York native Bella Feldman has been turning out sculpture made of wood and steel; blown, cast and etched glass; and – occasionally – found objects. Her “War Toys,” provoked into being by the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath, rank as canonical Bay Area sculpture.

Though revered as a longtime teacher at California College of the Arts, Feldman says, “I’m not exactly high on a list of collected artists.”

he Richmond Art Center honors her with a stirring survey exhibition, in which we met and spoke.

Q. Do you see an overarching ambition or theme in your work?

A: I do. I see that the work has always had an element of anxiety and instability – it’s the 20th century’s effect on me. That, plus living in earthquake country. … A lot of this has erotic overtones. But eros has always has certain anxieties attached to it, especially if you came of age in the ’50s.

Q: How big a part does scale play in your work?

A: I try to use the whole language of sculpture and one of the strongest aspects of it is scale. The recent small pieces grow out of the fact that machines bamboozle me. … Also, when I was 13, I went to the Museum of Modern Art for the first time and saw (Alberto) Giacometti’s “The Palace at 4 A.M.” It’s always stayed with me, the power of that small piece.

Q: Some appear to be interactive in the old-fashioned sense.

A: I always like all the work to be interactive, but clearly when you get up in scale, you can’t push a big thing around without some element of danger. … Motion is part of the physicality of objects, so I’ve included that in my sculptural vocabulary, and also it’s part of that instability.

Q: How do these sculptures originate?

A: They start out as very small ideas. I like to do very quick little drawings, and then we work it out as we go along. It’s a completely integrated system between myself and my assistant.

Q: The “War Toys” responded to events of their moment. Do other works also?

A: I don’t see them that way. Many times I do the work and only later realize some of the emotional, psychological stuff behind it. … I work strictly from subconscious impulse. I consider my work sort of expressive of the times, but I’ve never been a didactic artist.

If you go

Bella: A 50-Year Survey of the Work of Bella Feldman: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Through Nov. 15. (Artist talk and film screening 1 p.m. Oct. 19.) Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond. (510) 620-6772.

Richmond Confidential: Richmond Art Center Celebrates 75 Years

This story was originally published by the Richmond Confidential and written by Rachel Waldholz. Read the full story and see additional photos here.

The internationally renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn showed his drawings here. Tom Marioni, the conceptual artist known for the One Second Sculpture, was a curator here. Jasper Johns, credited with paving the way for both Pop Art and Minimalism – and an intimate of Bob Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage — had his first West Coast show here.

For decades, the Richmond Art Center provided early exposure for artists ahead of the curve, many of whom went on to blossom nationally and internationally.

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