Ari Messer

Power everywhere and nowhere

"After the Revolution: Contemporary Photography from Tehran and California"
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REVIEW Arguably the strangest image in the news this year was an Associated Press-circulated pic of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wearing the type of 3-D glasses you'd find packaged with a comic book, examining a map at Tehran's space center in a state of deep concentration. Read more »

"Broken Promised Land"

Shai Kremer's subtle treatment of Israel's disfigured landscapes
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REVIEW "Broken Promised Land" is a distracting title for Israeli photographer Shai Kremer's exhibit at the Robert Koch Gallery. Though broken dreams and bombed-out promises are certainly present in the 11 color photographs on display from Kremer's seven-year project shooting Israel's militarily disfigured landscapes, it's ultimately the subtlety of his work that defines its wide-ranging resonance.

Kremer also has shown works from this series at New York City's Julie Saul Gallery. Read more »

"Fox in the Mirror"

Eerie vignettes and a dance of sex and sadness
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REVIEW When artists speak of found objects, they sometimes mean found — in a marketing plan. But Liliana Porter is different. Read more »

Found objects

Liliana Porter's "Fox in the Mirror"
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REVIEW When artists speak of found objects, they sometimes mean found — in a marketing plan. But Liliana Porter is different. Read more »

Bumping and thriving

Om Hip Hop puts real life back on the dance floor
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"Crazy be the knowledge of self." If you're into conscious hip-hop, you might expect such an interpersonal refrain as this intro to Black Spade's "Good Crazy" on his intricately self-produced debut, To Serve with Love, out last month on Om Hip Hop, an imprint of San Francisco's Om Records. Still, there's something new going on here, something hot that snags your mind and your kicks and refuses to let go.

Maybe it's Spade's technique. Read more »

Gyan Riley

Complex sensitivity as a guitarist and composer, showcased in the four-part "Progression of the Ancestors" suite
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REVIEW I first heard Gyan Riley on the spectacular, otherworldly The Book of Abbeyozzud (New Albion, 1999), by his father, minimalist maestro Terry Riley. The younger Riley's playing on "Zamorra," a guitar duet with David Tanenbaum, reached new heights of raging classical guitar intimacy.

In 1999, Gyan Riley was the first guitarist to receive a full scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Since then, he's been around: he's had major commissions from the Carnegie Hall Corp. Read more »

Thou shalt have icons

Jazz giants come alive, with artful intimacy
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DVD "I put John Coltrane up in my headphones." So said innovative producer Madlib's sped-up alter ego, Quasimoto, on 2000's breakthrough hip-hop album The Unseen (Stones Throw). Read more »

Seeing other people

On highways, families, ghosts, and gods: unwrapping the gift of a good story
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lit@sfbg.com

WISH LIST When I give a book as a present, I like to have a good story to tell about where it came from — about the author's travels or secret family life or public stunts. Many of 2007's best bets for worthy literary gifts tell such stories on their own. Read more »

Cemetery days

Poems smuggled out of Buchenwald record two sisters' observations from inside a living hell
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lit@sfbg.com

REVIEW A smaller selection of the poems in A Wall of Two would have been easier to take. Presented here in more than 50 bone-shaking adaptations by poet Fanny Howe, the devastating early works by sisters Henia and Ilona Karmel, survivors of the German concentration camp Buchenwald, are so harrowing I could read only a few at a time. Read more »

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Charlie Louvin

O Brother
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A duet is a delicate thing, often recognized as romantic exhibitionism, rapport spilling forth. In classic Americana arrangements, in which verses are traded back and forth and choruses framed by intricate harmonies, the duet possesses a trippy if not schizophrenic grace: a singer begins the story, then it's suddenly someone else's. Read more »