"Furnishing Assumptions." The antic living-room suites, bound and gagged, and somber chair memorials in "Furnishing Assumptions" offer fresh perspective for shoppers seeking apartment therapy. In drawings, sculptures, and photographs, varying in size from small to huge, these artists use furniture as metaphors for people and all the vicissitudes of the human condition. Scott Oliver's The Valley, an ingenious HO-gauge toy-train-scaled landscape created from a disemboweled overstuffed chair (included in the piece) is the star of the show. (Now where to put it?) Roy McMakin's striking black-and-white Untitled demands to be seen as a painting/sculpture combo, although it functions as a splendid desk. In My Living Room Is a Martian Colony, Gilles Barbier photographs the scruffy interior of his Marseilles digs actual size and desperately suggests to the viewer (with signs in flawed English syntax) that this is really Mars. We don't believe him. A pair of Wendy Maruyama's handmade chairs, the gallery's stock furnishings, sit idly by, begging to be included. They suggest that there's more to the gallery owner's furniture fetish than meets the eye. Bargains (all the carefully staged and altered photographs by Alex Clausen) and blue-chips (Chair 1965-2000 by Richard Artschwager and Kaiserliches Hofmobiliendepot Wien IV by Candida Höfer) are both available. Hurry on down! Through Aug. 19 at Rena Bransten Gallery, 77 Geary (between Kearny and Grant), S.F. Admission is free; call 982-3292 or visit www.renabranstengallery.com. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed July 26.
"Liquid Paper." Hot topics coolly rendered abound in the figurative works-on-paper at Ratio 3. Director Chris Perez favors art that is well made, spare, and emotionally distant no matter how edgy the subject. His taste was honed studying photographs by Jacques Henri Lartigue, Henri Cartier-Bresson, László Moholy-Nagy, and Alexander Rodchenko, so it's not surprising that in "Liquid Paper" he selects drawings that are photo-based (Rebecca Schiffman's Computer Lit, Colter Jacobsen's Narcissus Bay, and Amanda Kirkuff's Billy & Chubby). The show's title, a brand of typing correction fluid, suggests fluidity of subject as well as media. In Violence on Paper, Dasha Shiskin pens combative three-in-one amorphous figures. Cliff Hengst's Untitled evokes eloquent blurred figures emerging from flowing wash. Lutz Bacher's dual video piece, Spud, stars a personable animated loop endlessly bending and unbending. In Moriceau + Mrzyk's untitled circular drawings, figures, plants, and objects merge and morph in sexy and comic dreamlike sequences. Work by internationally known names (Raymond Pettibon, Kara Walker, Louise Bourgeois, and R. Crumb) hangs side by side with that of Bay Area artists and recent art school graduates. What holds the show together is Perez's highly selective eye and the informality and intimacy of the works on paper. Through Aug. 6 (with "Pure Land") at Ratio 3, 903 Guerrero (at 21st St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 821-3371 or visit www.ratio3.org. (Lea Feinstein) Reviewed July 26.
"Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation." This first U.S. retrospective of the Japanese photographer's oeuvre cuts a wide swath through the modern history of Japan. Captured with candor and a gentle intelligence, Tomatsu's subjects encompass the everyday effects of WWII devastation, American military occupation, and the ensuing Westernization of Japan. His eye for telling detail and critical nuance gives his works an immediacy and freshness that balances the specific humanity of his subjects with stories of national and global proportions. For example, his pictures of atomic bomb survivors are restrained and demure, while his images of the objects that survived the blast speak volumes. The vessel in Bottle Melted and Deformed by Atomic Bomb Heat, Radiation, and Fire, Nagasaki is twisted and bloated like a deformed limb or a mutant fetus. It's a graphic stand-in for the devastated flesh and psyches of the bombs' human survivors, whose scars Tomatsu was too respectful to probe fully with the camera. This sensitivity also shows up in his ambivalent portraits of Americans during the occupation. Part of a series titled "Chewing Gum and Chocolate" (after the treats that U.S. soldiers handed out to Japanese children), some images are overtly critical two young black men harassing a Japanese woman, the sole of a white soldier's boot looming above the camera but others capture a tentative air of unease that betrays Tomatsu's sympathy for even the most antipathetic subjects. Through Aug. 13 at SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (between Mission and Howard), S.F. Admission is free-$12.50; call 357-4000 or visit www.sfmoma.org. (Sharon Mizota) Reviewed May 31.
Baxter Chang Patri Fine Art. "Duet": New paintings by Shell Cardon and Katherine Leighnor. Through July 31. Hotel Nikko 222 Mason (at O'Farrell), 397-2000.
Contemporary Jewish Museum. "Art of Living: Contemporary Photography and Video from the Israel Museum": Through July 30. 121 Steuart (at Mission), 591-8800, thecjm.org.
CounterPULSE. "Frybread and Roses": Through July 30. 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), 626-2060, www.counterpulse.org.
Creativity Explored. "Nature Rules": New work by artists with developmental disabilities, curated by Judith LaRosa. Through Aug. 10. 3245 16th St. (at Dolores), 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org.
Gallery 16. Alex Zecca: Daily. 501 Third St. (at Bryant), 626-7495.
Gallery Fifty24SF. "The Next Best Thing": New work by Jeremy Fish. Through July 31. 228 Fillmore (at Haight) (within Upper Playground), 262-0144, www.upperplayground.com.
H Cafe. "Virility": New male nudes in paintings and photography by Suzanne Jamieson. Through July 31. 3801 17th St. (at Sanchez), 487-1661, www.hcafesf.com.
Micaela Gallery. "Better Out Than In": New paintings by Laurie Lipton. Through July 31. "Laurie Lipton: Drawings": New work. Through July 31. 333 Hayes (at Franklin), 551-8118, www.micaela.com.
Needles & Pens. "Grand Re-Opening Benefit Art Show": Through July 29. 483 14th St. (at Guerrero), 255-1534, www.needles-pens.com.
Sculpturesite Gallery. Bella Feldman: Glass and steel works. Through Sept. 9. free. "Body Language - Figurative Works by 5 Women Sculptors": New sculpture by Jane Burton, Nina Lyons, Virginia Maksymowicz, Christin Nelson, and Kathy Venter. Through Aug. 5. 201 Third St. (at Howard), Suite 102, 495-6400, www.sculpturesite.com.
Toomey Tourell. Joni West: Through July 31. free. 49 Geary (at Kearny) (Fourth Fl.), 989-6444.
White Walls Gallery. "Well Hung": New work by Sylvia Ji, Siloette, Andrea Wicklund, Hannah Stouffer, Amanda Lopez, Jenny Bird, Monica Canilao, Jennifer Poone, Diana Thorneycroft, and Jill Simonsen. Through July 31. 835 Larkin (at Alice B. Toklas), 931-1500, www.whitewallsf.com.
de Young Museum. "From the Ground Up: American Artists of the Etching Revival": Covers the "etching revival" in the United States. Through Sept. 3. "Personal Perspectives: Aspects of European Photography": European photography from its beginnings in the 1840s up to the present. Through Sept. 17. "The Quilts of Gee's Bend": The quilts of Gee's Bend make San Francisco the final stop in their widely acclaimed nationwide tour. Through Nov. 6. "Chicano": Through Oct. 22. "Crown Point Press: The Art of Etching": The contemporary print publisher is celebrated in this exhibition of 35 prints by 16 artists. Through Aug. 27. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at JFK), 863-3330, www.thinker.org.
Museum of the African Diaspora. "Carrie Mae Weems: The Louisiana Project.": The exclusive West Coast presentation of internationally renowned photographer and installation artist. July 27-Oct. 9. St. Regis Hotel, 685 Mission (at Third St.), 358-7200, www.moadsf.org.
SF Museum of Modern Art. "The Art of Design": A permanent exhibition of works in the museum's architecture and design collection, including works of graphic and industrial design (such as the famous Fillmore rock posters by Bonnie MacLean, Victor Moscoso, and Stanley Mouse). Daily. Drawing Restraint 9: A feature-length film and related photography, drawing, video, and sculpture. Through Sept. 17. "Matisse and Beyond: The Painting and Sculpture Collection": Magnificent works of painting and sculpture culled from SFMOMA's own collections provide a quick tour of modern art from Fauvism to Minimalism. Daily. The Body as Matrix: Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle : A 60-minute film. Through Sept. 17. "Between Art and Life: The Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Collection": The ongoing exhibition presents works from SFMOMA's own collections, with special installations on artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Robert Gober, Eva Hesse, Anish Kapoor, Sherrie Levine, Brice Marden, Gordon Matta-Clark, Barry McGee, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, and Kara Walker. Daily. "New Work: Tim Gardner, Marcelino Gonalves, Zak Smith": The latest exhibition in the ongoing "New Work" series presents the California museum premieres of three artists from across North America. Through Sept. 5. "Picturing Modernity: Selections From the SFMOMA Collection": An exhibition of photographs from SFMOMA's own collection that illustrate a wide range of photographic styles. Daily. SFMOMA Sculpture Garden Competition: Art on the rooftop garden. Through Sept. 5. "Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation": Through Aug. 13. Nagasaki from a 45 Degree Angle: The Photographer Shomei Tomatsu: A video screening in conjunction with the Shomei Tomatsu exhibit. Through Aug. 13. Xefirotarch/design series 4: Art from Hernn Daz Alonso's Los Angeles-based architectural firm. Through Sept. 17. "Architecture & Design Permanent Collection": An ongoing presentation featuring more than 100 works illustrating concepts in design and architecture. Daily. "Matthew Barney: Drawing Retraint": A full-scale survey of the artist's work occuping the museum's entire fourth floor. Through Sept. 17. 151 Third St. (at Mission), 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org.