"A Flight." Birds of every feather transform this tiny gallery into a cabinet of curiosities that would make surrealist Max Ernst and shy fabulist Joseph Cornell feel right at home. The 32 small works evoke fluttering wings, soft coos, and high-pitched calls in this remarkable silent show. Caleb Duarte, an artist/carpenter, presents tiny flocks of airborne geese on broken drywall fragments. Like pentimenti (the ghostly preparatory drawings for frescoes), his lyrical flocks are almost shadows. Matt Furie, toy sorter at the Mission District's Community Thrift Store, employs his stuffed-animal finds as models for his meticulous, incised drawings. Miranda Maher depicts the distribution patterns of pigeons on the wing and gives her prints pseudo-scientific titles. Gina Pearlin's realist oil painting transforms a battered metal shelf into a delicate blue sky and a trompe l'oeil window. A hint of bird all beak and wing escapes at upper left. Lucy Gaylord-Lindholm alters her astonishing copy of a somber Velasquez portrait as a thrush emerges from his ear, its open beak emitting a silent cry. In a tour de force, Gaylord-Lindholm turns the sitter's hair into stylized, pink-tipped pin feathers. Other standouts are Deborah Barrett's pair of earthbound velvet collage chicks, Vahakn Arslanian's Japanese Love Birds, and Sindy Lutz's quartet of bird/man fusions. What is a bird symbol of the soul or the holy spirit? Why do angels have wings? What is "A Flight"? Magic, and another top-notch (and affordable) selection from the aerie on Geary. Through Dec. 31 at Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary (at Grant), Suite 440, S.F. Admission is free; call 956-1178 or visit www.jackfischergallery.com. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed Dec. 27.
"How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" and "Radical Software." The most stringent social criticism today seems to be coming from artists, and this pair of thought-provoking exhibitions showcases some prime examples. Solmaz Shabazi's film Tehran 1380, part of "Universe," is a must-see. A documentary critique of urban planning in modern Tehran, it highlights the Navvab Housing Project, 100,000 inhabitants on a site 5 kilometers long and 100 meters wide. What goes wrong when structures are built disregarding local customs and traditions and human needs is exemplified in tragicomic interviews with ordinary citizens and government architects ("That is the role of the architect ... forcing people to get used to new living conditions"). Expanding on the theme of social space and its creation are drawings by Shaun O'Dell, William Scott, Andreas Dalen, Toby Paterson, and Rick Guidice, and videos and photos by Gitte Villesen, Jakob Kolding, Bonnie Ora Sherk, and Nate Boyce. Improved labeling would make this display easier to navigate. In an adjoining room, Michael Stevenson's Capp Street Project recreates The Moniac, a humorous Rube Goldberg-esque watermill a metaphor for cash flow at the Central Bank of Guatemala. "Radical Software," in the upstairs gallery, reopens a chapter of history from the '60s and '70s, charting the beginnings of anti-corporate free/open-source culture, especially in the Bay Area. A series of contemporary videos shot by a 6-year-old Danish girl encourages the empowerment of kids and raises questions about who has access to the media. The accompanying catalog expands the history and the inquiry. Through March 24, 2007, at California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St. (at 16th St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 703-9548 or visit www.cca.edu. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed Dec. 27.
Adobe Book Shop. "Where We Have Been Where We Are and Where We Are Going": New work by Joe Armin, Nicholas Mohanna, Brian Bellot, Donal Mosher, Chris Corales, Mat O'Brien, Mark DeLong, Kelly Ording, Chris Duncan, James Orlando, Sacha Eckes, Kottie Paloma, Amanda Eicher, Amy Rathbone, Joseph Hart, Kyle Ranson, Kira Inglis, Dave Schubert, Kyle Knobel, Christine Shields, Paula Malesardi, Johanna St. Clair, Sean McFarland, Judd Vetrone, and Jason McLean. Through Dec. 30. 3166 16th St. (at Valencia), 864-3936, www.adobebooks.org.
Art Engine. "Opposite Order": New work by Joey Piziali. Through Jan. 14, 2007. 1035 Mission (at Sixth St.), 713-8669.
Artists' Television Access. "Folk Saint": New video work by Rebecca Frediani. Through Dec. 30. 992 Valencia (at 21st St.), 824-3890, www.atasite.org.
California College of the Arts Playspace Gallery. "23 Years of Hernia Milk and Ergot Dreams: A Retrospective of Caroliner": Ephemera from the band Caroliner, curated by Sarrita Hunn, Marcella Faustini, and the Museum of Viral Memory. Through Jan. 13, 2007. 111 Eighth St. (at Mission), 703-9500, www.cca.edu.