Fame is a tricky subject for an artist to comment on, considering that most people who offer work up for the public eye desperately crave recognition. It's tempting (and perhaps safest) to simply look with derision upon those who scramble for the limelight, but that kind of ironic detachment is just a cop-out. In his exhibition "Fame," David Lyle explores notoriety without poking fun at it using portraits of 1950s small-town celebrities: the winners of pie contests, beauty pageants, and bowling games. Painting from old photographs, Lyle gives his subjects a second life in glossy black-and-white oils that seem lit by bursting flashbulbs. In The Dairy Queen Hits the U.K. , for example, a ribbon-clad woman leads a prize heifer through a bustling downtown, and in State Fair Domination a matronly woman presides over fluffy cakes draped with victory ribbons. Such small, long-forgotten achievements, unearthed by Lyle for this unexpected airing, are pictured not as trivial pursuits to mock but as genuine accomplishments redeemed by the glowing pride of the works' subjects. The show runs through March 26 at the Heather Marx Gallery, 77 Geary (at Grant), Second Floor, S.F. Admission is free; call 627-9111 or visit www.heathermarxgallery.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Feeling the love supreme
Part of an ongoing SFJAZZ Spring Season tribute, "New Music and the Music of John Coltrane" has a lot to offer fans of the late, great saxophone master. The performers -- the festival's "resident ensemble," the SFJAZZ Collective -- are a supergroup of like-minded players about whom the New York Times noted last year, "A serious jazz band rises in San Francisco."
On this particular evening, the collective shows off not only its own Coltrane-inspired original compositions, but also some classic numbers as set up by Grammy-winning arranger Gil Goldstein. SFJAZZ Artistic Director Joshua Redman anchors the group; Bobby Hutcherson, Miguel Zenón, Renee Rosnes, and many other talents round it out. Jazz fans would be hard-pressed to find this much skill under one roof any other night of the year. "New Music" begins at 8 p.m. (and SFJAZZ concerts continue at various venues through March 27) at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, 1111 California (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $25-60; call 788-7353 or visit www.sfjazz.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Inside the Holocaust
Though it happened more than 60 years ago, the Holocaust remains a fresh wound because of the vow made by those who suffered from its ravages: forgive but never forget. The Holocaust Center of Northern California, which just opened last week, aims to keep that promise with a profusion of new facilities -- a library with more than 15,000 historical volumes (one of the largest Holocaust-related collections in the world), a reading room for screening documentaries and holding educational talks, and ongoing displays of the center's thousands of photographs and artifacts. For the next six months, you can see an (untitled) overview of the center's holdings at 121 Steuart (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call 777-9060 or visit www.holocaust-sf.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
During Mardi Gras a string of beads can buy you live T&A, but the next day it's just garbage in the gutter. The new documentary Mardi Gras: Made in China traces a bead's life from its birth in a Chinese sweatshop through its parade-time peak; it screens as part of the Absolute Time Film Festival at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890 or visit www.atasite.org.
-- Joyce Slaton