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No Mere Novelty 

Ware collects his works

FRI 10/21

Like many of Chris Ware's comics, The ACME Novelty Library demands a close reading, preferably using a magnifying glass and a xenon light. The minuscule text is produced by the "amazing precision of Asian printing technology," as Ware explains on the book jacket, a ribbon-size slip awash in McSweeney's-like publication minutiae (right down to the line "Printed in Singapore, where it's cheaper"). The cover itself is curiously bare, save for the 3- millimeter-high comic (I measured) not on the spine but on each hard edge. It's a packaging marvel, fitting for a book of such obsessive brilliance it's exhausting to look at, let alone read.

Primarily a collection of Ware's previous work, ACME features plenty of Big Tex and Rocket Sam strips, along with fake ads for Ware-ish products such as "Reason for Living" and "Sexual Partner." You'll need to take the book into a dark closet to reveal "Structure of the Universe," printed in glow-in-the-dark ink. You could also rip it up to assemble the cutout accordion books, but you'll surely demur, thinking ACME is collectible (a concept Ware has much fun with). The award-winning letterer enjoys making light of his profession -- and he's at its height, bitterly complaining about the view -- but is equally strong at producing an existential wallop: Most strips end with characters alone, confused or near tears, and all too familiar. Ware signs the tome (turning it into a legitimate collectible) at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit
-- Michael Leaverton

Plant People

ONGOING 10/21-11/12

As an art movement, the cartoon-demon aesthetic doesn't hit you over the head with theory. But the dual exhibit "Creature Double Feature" does have something lurking beneath the surface. Oakland's John Casey calls his drawings of oddball monsters portraits of his inner psyche (which must be quite a place, given all the teeth), and San Francisco's Martha Sue Harris' fabric installations of deviant botany explore symbiotic relationships in the plant kingdom. Of course, it's all totally cool to look at. The opening-night reception starts at 7 on Friday (and the show continues through Nov. 12) at National Product, 1845 Market (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-1920 or visit
-- Michael Leaverton

Art & Letters
The writing on the wall

ONGOING 10/19-11/19

Giant shards of glass on the gallery floor in Joe Amhrein's Re-Site make the place look like a prettily designed post-looting scenario. But the hand-painted lettering on the broken pieces implies that it was a mom-and-pop outfit that got the brick. Amhrein's cobbler-shop palette and background in sign painting give his work a fascinatingly old-timey texture; this piece is part of the recently opened "Writing Letters," featuring three artists playing with print, fonts, words, and signs.

Amhrein is joined by Tauba Auerbach, who explores communication systems (like languages), and Steve Powers (aka ESPO), who offers cartoonish, absurdist takes on thorny emotional issues. It's impossible to choose a favorite, but Auerbach's The Whole Alphabet, Digital I is witty, with new-wave colors. The show continues through Nov. 19 at the Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971 or visit
-- Hiya Swanhuyser

See Monsters
Artists not afraid of the dark

ONGOING 10/20-11/25

What is a monster, really? As "Revenge of Monster" curator Francis Kohler points out, "It wasn't that long ago that people with disabilities were called 'monsters.'" Creativity Explored, the center for artists with developmental disabilities, reprises its wildly successful October 2003 exhibition with new art that uses classic monsters as a jumping-off place. A Creature From the Black Lagoon installation, ceramic busts of the Bride of Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, and a zine by Fears of Your Life author Michael Bernard Loggins, among other works, are on display.

But the screening of Gordon Shepard's short film Horror Castle is a one-time affair, happening only at the opening reception, which starts Thursday at 7 p.m. (the exhibit continues through Nov. 25) at Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St. (at Guerrero), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-2108 or visit
-- Hiya Swanhuyser

Dim Stars

WED 10/19

It's a rite of passage for the budding videophile: rifling through dusty boxes of forgotten home movies and transferring them to DVD. Fortunately, many of the gems are also being transferred to people in the know, and offbeat screenings are popping up in commercial film houses. The latest, "Home Movie Heroics," features a 60-minute flick along with an indie-filmmaker conversation, at which folks from the Media Archive and Frameline speak about home movies as anthropological tools and how today's artists can incorporate old footage into their projects. The show starts at 7 p.m. at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is $10; call 552-5950 or visit
-- Michael Leaverton


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