“Re: Form,” Barbara Holme’s solo show at The Compound Gallery and Studios. (All photographs by the author)

BERKELEY, California — When I visited The Compound Gallery and Studios in North Oakland, it was the first time I felt like I was back in Brooklyn’s art scene since I moved to California. The multipurpose space was very active and full of art projects, ranging from a residency program, to different gallery spaces and artists in the studio actively creating. This exciting arena, like those alternative spaces in Gowanus or Bushwick, is a place I will definitely be frequenting.

In the main gallery was Re: Form, a solo show of wooden sculptural and installation work by Barbara Holmes (the entrance is pictured above). Made solely using a type of commonly discarded wood, her large installation wrapped mesmerizingly around the architectural space and her more finely crafted and often painted sculptures dotted the floor and walls.

The Special Collection and Print Lounge.

Off of the main gallery is The Special Collection and Print Lounge (seen above), where you can browse a variety of smaller works and the flat files of the artists represented by the gallery. The space was a little overwhelming at first (it’s packed full of work) but I stayed to browse for a while. Because of the affordability and diversity of the work, this will definitely be a Christmas shopping stop for me.

The room-sized installation for the Art in a Box Headquarters.

On the other end of the main gallery was a room an installation dedicated to the Art in a Box program (above and below). Art in a Box is a $50 a month delivery service ($40 for a pick up service) which sends you an artwork inside a 11″ x 17″ x 3″ box every month. The subscription hopes to find a different way of sharing art that benefits both the artist and the price-conscious buyer. Although the subscription is only loosely customized to your unique tastes, Art in a Box is an ingeniously creative way to begin a small art collection on a budget. The installation for the Art in a Box headquarters details the mission of expanding the business to subscribers from every state as well as internationally.

Desk at the Art in a Box Headquarters.

Already appreciating how versatile the building was, the interdisciplinary potential was really hit home in between the studio spaces and the main gallery where the Compound Artists Gallery is located. It functions as an interim gallery of work “fresh from the studio.” The Compound Gallery and Studios is a constantly changing space, where artworks just finished are shown nearby more refined, larger shows, which then might collapse into the flat files in the next room. Although the work in the Compound Artists Gallery was perhaps not my favorite, I liked its freshness.

The Admiral Dot Miniature Gallery.

One of my favorite works in the Compound Artists Gallery turned out to be another project entirely, The Admiral Dot Miniature Gallery (above). Possibly an homage to the once popular Flea Circuses, the Admiral Dot Miniature Gallery claims to be “the smallest gallery in the West” and is currently featuring three tiny photographs by Toni Gentilli.

The studio and communal work spaces.

Just past the Compound Artists Gallery is a more raw space for artists to work in (seen above). With lockers, divided studio spaces for rent, and an open work area with tools available, the space seemed well-maintained, light-filled, and spacious. There were six artists busily working away as I walked through facilities — hopefully, next time I visit, their work will be hung in the Compound Artists Gallery. This year the Compound Gallery and Studio was voted best “Art Hang-Out” by the East Bay Express. Although I am a complete newbie to the area, I won’t be surprised if I still agree after more exploration.

Ben Valentine is an independent writer living in Cambodia. Ben has written and spoken on art and culture for SXSW, Salon, SFAQ, the Los Angeles Review of Books, YBCA, ACLU, de Young Museum, and the Museum...

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