We were skeptical at first: We're not fans of companies plastering their names all over, like the Spider-Man 2 folks recently tried to do. Some things are sacred, and we hope art is one of them. But we consider every announcement we're sent, even the one for the "Altoids Curiously Strong Collection." It's a huge exhibit and the list of participants is looonnng, but one name jumped out at us right away: Nina Katchadourian. We loved her "Animal Crossdressing" show a while back -- it was hysterically funny (mice peeking out of snakeskins, and so on), and also smart and flawlessly executed. So we figured if she was in the "Collection," it had to be good.
As our eyes adjusted to the tiny type on the release, out popped the name of local painter Clare Rojas, whose wan figures in aggressively perspectiveless landscapes we like a lot, too. A few names from the biennials, like judge Laylah Ali and artist asianpunkboy, got our attention. Finally, the inclusion of freaky and brilliant Iona Rozeal Brown convinced us that this show is worth your precious time. The opening reception begins at 6 p.m. (and the exhibit continues through June 21) at the Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971 or visit www.luggagestoregallery.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Family bonding, with Bondo
With alluring class titles like "Intensive Flameworking Weekend," "Introduction to Kiln Fired Glass Workshop," and, my favorite, "Interactive Kinetic Art & the Pinball Machine," the Crucible's "Skill Building Weekend" helps you go above and beyond the Elmer's glue, elbow macaroni, and glitter of summer-camp arts and crafts. What's more, you can study the arts of neon sculpture (make your favorite beer logo!), jewelry making (make yourself a new brooch!), and blacksmithing (make your favorite, um, spoon!) -- perfect for parents looking for weekend activities a tad more challenging than a Giants game or less revolting than New York Minute.
This enlightening weekend is also packed with individual courses for families (or merely the curious) looking for hands-on lessons in glass sculpture, welding, metal arts, and much more. Crucible staffers offer this advice: "Sign up early." The crafting starts at 10 a.m. both days at 1260 Seventh St. (at Union), Oakland. Tuition per class ranges from $140 to $360; call (510) 444-0919 or visit www.thecrucible.org.
-- Brock Keeling
He Gets Around
The photography of nowhere
Todd Hido's "Roaming" exhibition is difficult to describe. It doesn't sound quite right to say, "It's a bunch of nice, big photographs of curving country roads, mostly taken through a car window." That's accurate, but inadequate.
Hido's gorgeous prints are somehow lonely but never desolate; they are unpeopled, often showing gray skies or heavy cloud cover or rain, but the impression they leave is roughly serene. With his painterly sense of subtle color, the artist presents lone trees, mud slicks, and spooky streetlights that seem to have something important to say. "Roaming" is on view through May 29 at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery, 49 Geary (at Kearny), S.F. Admission is free; call 433-6879 or visit www.wirtzgallery.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Emerging writers, young artists, and fresh musicians have it good at "Three Rolled Into One." Even the event's venue is newly reopened (it used to be Mission Records). Issue 6 of Watchword, the magazine of Watchword Press, features the work of local authors, new art, and a Sonny Smith CD called One Act Plays; its release party offers readings, music, and more starting at 6 p.m. at the Dark Room, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 407-2952 or visit www.watchwordpress.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser