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Our critics weigh in on local exhibitions

"Beniamino Bufano." It's no secret that plenty of adults enjoy entertainment created with kids in mind, which seems fine to us. And we've all known girls who were reading Jane Austen at age 12 -- also OK. But it's something else when a children's museum takes serious art and acts like it's only for kids: That's just plain thievery. All right, we exaggerate. But art lovers with or without kids should know that eight pieces by world-famous sculptor Beniamino Bufano have moved, and they now live next-door to a "Live Animal Exhibit." Bufano's butterfly, mother bear nursing cubs, and regal cat may be cute, but they're still major works. The final tour circles the giant granites at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum (at Roosevelt), S.F. Admission is free; call 554-9600 or visit (Hiya Swanhuyser) Reviewed July 14.

"Here We Are Here." Sarah Bostwick's abstracted cityscapes, carved into pristine slabs of white plaster, distill San Francisco's bustling streets into meditative studies of shadow and light. Her excavations, which range from faint scratches to deep cuts, reveal the spare silhouettes of highway overpasses, street lamps, and tangled telephone wires. Bostwick gracefully fuses sculpture and drawing, resurrecting the bygone tradition of wall relief. Her work is nicely complemented by the small group show that graces the rest of the gallery: Check out Seth Koen's crocheted ovoids and Tucker Schwarz's "drawings" of suburban houses -- stitched in colored thread on muslin, with loose ends hanging like drips of paint. Through Aug. 20 at the Gregory Lind Gallery, 49 Geary (at Kearny), Fifth Floor, S.F. Admission is free; call 296-9661 or visit (Adrienne Gagnon) Reviewed Aug. 18.

"Nobody Love Me." Tino "Rosie" Camanga had a vision. Whatever his subject matter -- birds, hula dancers, cartoon characters, weapons -- his style stood out, with its distinctive curves and high color. Because Camanga's canvas was usually some sailor's arm in Honolulu between the '40s and the '80s, it's rare to see his work, even though his stuff informs the style of practically everyone who's ever held an ink gun. That's why we're so into this exhibition of local tattoo guru Don Ed Hardy's private collection: an astonishing 200 sheets of Camanga's original flash. Catch folk art at its best through Sept. 5 at the Hold Fast Gallery, 487 14th St. (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 352-7479. (Hiya Swanhuyser) Reviewed Aug. 11.

"Raggedy Ann and Friends: The Art of Johnny Gruelle." She's 89, he's 84, and their best friends are children and toy collectors. Raggedy Ann and Andy are not your typical seniors, and their enduring charm makes us love them for it. That yarn hair! Those wide eyes! But the famous pair of old-fashioned rag doll characters are not the only creations of illustrator Johnny Gruelle, many of whose other comic strips (Mr. Twee Deedle, Jack the Giant Killer, Brutus) and books are exhibited at "Raggedy Ann and Friends" along with plenty of his drawings for magazines and newspapers. Tons of Ann and Andy stuff has been collected by Gruelle-obsessed curator Andrew Tabbat, including dolls, ephemera, and animation art. Through Nov. 7 at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 227-8666 or visit (Hiya Swanhuyser) Reviewed July 7.

"Summer Choices." Got a thing for spit bite? How 'bout sugar lift? For 42 years, Crown Point Press has invited celebrated contemporary artists to craft limited editions on its presses, using every conceivable printing technique -- including the two above -- to achieve the desired effect. This satisfying group show pulls together highlights from the past two decades. Standouts include Anne Appleby's glowing aquatint Spring Aspen, a trio of oblongs in burnished browns and apple greens. Pat Steir's Tiny Green presents a verdant cascade overlaid with a shower of calligraphic red and blue marks -- like a ticker tape parade in celebration of the season. And the incomparably subtle Richard Tuttle, who's just produced a boxed portfolio for the gallery, contributes a graceful distillation of cool, translucent rectangles. Through Sept. 11 at Crown Point Press, 20 Hawthorne (between Howard and Folsom), S.F. Admission is free; call 974-6273 or visit (Adrienne Gagnon) Reviewed Aug. 18.

"Tinkering!" The act of taking stuff apart and (optionally) putting it back together is traditionally the province of dads. This summer, though, everyone's favorite science museum is bringing such futzing out of the garage and into the public domain. Women and children, prepare your tool kits for "Tinkering!," an exhibition and series of events designed to give people the "So that's how it works!" experience. (Dad can come along, too.) The exhibit's Take-It-Apart Days feature cars, toasters, bicycles, and other machines just for dismantling. The related display "Cabaret Mechanical Theater" offers a set of hand-carved "automata" sculptures full of gears and other moving parts. And a film series highlights great tinkerers like Grandma Tressa Prisbrey, builder of glass-bottle houses. Through Oct. 3 at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Museum admission is free-$9.50; call 561-0360 or visit (Hiya Swanhuyser) Reviewed June 30.

"Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens." Yoshitomo Nara's unruly kids have been corralled together for the artist's first U.S. solo show. The Tokyo-based artist draws on the manga tradition to create an irresistible cohort of wide-eyed children, by turns sweet and saucy. Some doze dreamily in giant sculpted teacups; others sport scowls and curse us out from pages of newsprint. Though they look terrific emblazoned on T-shirts and mugs, Nara's protagonists transcend mere marketing fodder. They remind us, with their sweetly fanged smiles, that it's possible to make mischief -- even when it seems certain that your voice will never be heard. Through Oct. 31 at the San Jose Museum of Art, 110 South Market (at West San Fernando), San Jose. Admission is free; call (408) 271-6840 or visit (Adrienne Gagnon) Reviewed July 21.


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