CHARLES DESMARAIS’ ART PICKS

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - CLASSICAL -

It is rare enough to see con­tem­po­rary art pro­duced in the medium of tapestry. Yet there are cur­rently two ex­hi­bi­tions at the multi-gallery Min­nesota Street Project pre­sent­ing woven works.

Rena Bransten Gallery has a fine dis­play of six “Se­lected Tapestries From Mag­no­lia Editions,” in­clud­ing a tran­scen­dent Kiki Smith called “Sky” (2012). Mag­no­lia has gained uni­ver­sal re­spect for its work with top artists from around the world, pro­duc­ing edi­tioned works in a range of me­dia.

If it were a com­pe­ti­tion, though, I would choose the tapestry show at Bass & Reiner, across the way. There, in “Sirens, Si­lencers, Muf­flers, and Mutes,” Whit­ney Lynn has taken ad­van­tage of the pro­cess with a con­cep­tual rigor the Mag­no­lia artists did not bring to bear. Lynn ex­am­ines the idea of the siren of an­cient mythol­ogy, the woman who con­trols men through her ir­re­sistible voice — which im­plies, of course, her en­chant­ing sex­u­al­ity.

Her weav­ings, man­u­fac­tured at a dif­fer­ent mill than Mag­no­lia uses, are the less lux­u­ri­ous. That turns out to be a good thing, as if they have a com­mu­nica­tive func­tion that goes be­yond decor. Eight fe­male sirens, mod­eled on al­tered images from old art his­tory books, sur­round us in the gallery, joined by tapestried pil­lows that pic­ture the kinds of alarm sirens bet­ter known to our age. To­gether, they send a quiet sig­nal of dis­tress.

Bass & Reiner

Whit­ney Lynn’s ex­hi­bi­tion runs through July 13.

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