Aside from the pointedly smartass sculptures of Marcel Duchamp, the early-20th-century art world was, for the most part, deadly serious. You had your surrealists, your abstract expressionists, and so on, each determined to use art to comment soberly on society's ills. But important as these creations may have been, they weren't exactly funny.
Innovators like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were the first to shake things up with their devilishly dadaist work in the 1950s. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein followed, with sly prints and paintings inspired by product packages and comic books. And by the time the flower children were smoking dope on Haight Street, fun-loving art was more than just a flavor of the month. Mills College pays tribute to this rise with "Keys to the Koop: Humor and Satire in Contemporary Printmaking," an exhibition of laugh-out-loud works drawn from a private collection.
The tongue-in-cheek pleasures are many: Enrique Chagoya's The Enlightened Savage recasts Warhol's soup cans as menacing tins of "Cannibull's Soup," with flavors such as Curator's Liver and Cream of Dealer. Mark Bennett comments cheekily on television's cockeyed reality with a series of floor plans for the homes of sitcom characters like the Ricardos and the Jetsons. And Lichtenstein lampoons solemn art itself with Reflections on the Scream, a takeoff of Edvard Munch's most famous painting, featuring a candy-colored shrieking Popeye character. The exhibit continues through Aug. 15 at the Mills College Art Museum, 5000 MacArthur (at Buell), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 430-2164 or visit www.mills.edu.
-- Joyce Slaton
Have More Fun
In this night of grand diva celebration, the leggy legend Jane Russell, first immortalized in the 1953 flick Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, makes a rare live appearance -- and sings. Also on the bill is a screening of the film, complete with drag performances by local actors. Plus, rival groups duke it out at "Blondes vs. Brunettes: The Ultimate Beauty Smackdown Competition" (audience-judged cattiness and posturing, and may the best hair win), and the evening winds up with an onstage interview of everyone's favorite non-blonde. "Ladies and Gentlemen Prefer Jane Russell" starts at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (near Market), S.F. Tickets are $27.50; call 863-0611 or visit www.castrotheatre.com.
-- Karen Macklin
Shiny Nasty People
If you're the type with a recycling bin full of empty liquid latex jars, you probably already know about "Slick Turns Ten," a birthday party for the fetish club that's like "Bondage-A-Go-Go"'s younger, hipper, less touristy sibling. But then again, the hard-core BDSM scenesters may have been too busy getting chained to toilets to go clubbing. In any case, tonight's festivities include the Miss Drop Dead, Gorgeous 2004 beauty pageant (with Fetish Formalwear and Hidden Talent competitions), live piercing demos, photography exhibitions, and all the spankings you can handle starting at 9 at Space 550, 550 Barneveld (between Industrial and Oakdale), S.F. Admission is $25-30; call 626-4561 or visit www.clubslick.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
In His Element
Ala Ebtekar's exhibit "Elemental" begins a conversation between two disparate cultures: Iranian coffeehouse traditions, meet the language and style of hip hop. Though the two are separated by centuries and sensibilities, in Ebtekar's sculptures, sound installations, and paintings their common qualities are apparent, including wild popularity and an ability to represent misunderstood groups. A pair of events complementing the show (up through July 31) are today's panel discussion on hip hop and next Saturday's closing talk with Ebtekar and artist Niloufar Taleb, both at 2 p.m. at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 626-2787 or visit www.theintersection.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser