America's industrial infrastructure has historically held little interest for most people, aside from the photographers and artists who found beauty in its austerely functional forms of warehouses, sheds, grain silos, cranes, barges, cargo ships, and tugboats. The Jingletown area of East Oakland (near the estuary, between the Fruitvale and Park Street bridges) is such a locale. Raffishly nicknamed for the Portuguese and Azorean laborers' jingling of payday pocket change (purportedly to attract female companionship), it was blighted by economic change a generation ago; its canneries and mills shuttered, it became a wasteland of weed-choked lots and junked cars, but also a haven for artists seeking low rents and relative quiet. Since 1998's prize-winning Jingle Town Homes were built, however, the area has been coming back economically — under the watchful eye of a coalition of merchants, business people, artists, musicians, and other residents, who aim to preserve their community by shaping development. In Jingletown Junction at Pro Arts, curated by artist Jill McLennan and exhibition coordinator David Huff, ten "JT" artist-activists find beauty in unexpected, and, so far, ungentrified places.
Kathy Cronin's paintings depict details ("Iron Chain," "After the Fire," "Railroad Tracks") of the industrial world with a strong abstract composition, while Fernando Reyes' ("Paradise," "Fruitvale Bridge," "Unloaded on Lancaster") depict larger slices of life, including odd juxtapositions, but also shaped by abstraction. Jill McLennan's landscape paintings ("Chain Link View," "12th St. View," "Fruitvale") with collage demonstrate a folk artist's sense of wonder and vivacity, and Heather Whitehead's paintings with their strong, simplified graphic imagery ("Collateral Damage II," "We Are Not Flying Rats," "Which Way Progress?") take on current sociopolitical issues. Russ Osterweil's black-and-white photos ("Night Shift," "Under the Park Street Bridge," "Derek Making a Living") explore social realism in strong compositions to reveal hidden facets of the neighborhood, while Jan Watten's photos ("Vine – Jingletown," "Jingletown Tree") evince mysteriously stirring life amid cracked pavement and broken windows, and Jon Zax's color-photo installation finds breathtaking beauty in the changing skies directly overhead. Alison McLennan's lamps and furniture ("Palette Lamp #1," "Dimebag Cube," "Telephone Pole Lamp") incorporate and commemorate the local architectural landscape with economy and wit, Bill Silveira's welded sculptures ("Sky Pirate," "Jingletown Junction") convert scrap metal into extravagant bursts of vehicular fantasy, and Laurel True's conceptual mosaics of asphalt, concrete, and glass imbue the forms of cracked roadways, lines of tar, and tire skid marks with elegance and opulence. Through April 25 at Pro Arts Gallery (550 2nd St., Oakland). ProArtsGallery.org or 510-763-4361.