Critic’s Picks: San Francisco



By DeWitt Cheng

Leonara Carrington


at Gallery Wendi Norris

Leonora Carrington’s small but memorable show at Gallery Wendi Norris features several oils on canvas and Masonite, some with gouache, and a pair of woolen tapestries, all of which were included in a large 2013 retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Because Carrington is generally associated with French and Mexican Surrealism, the Celtic connection may appear odd at first.

But the exotic heraldic beasts in her work along with the atmosphere of magic, mystery and occultism have certain affinities with Irish folklore and the medieval illuminated manuscript tradition. Whatever sources fed Carrington’s fertile imagination and active mind, exhibitions of her work are rare, and not to be missed by the mystically minded. Her painting Sanctuary for Furies (1974) is a wonderfully perverse work presenting an array of odd and indescribable demonic creatures scampering about what resembles a Wunderkammer or cabinet of marvels adorned with esoteric symbols. Despite its subdued beige palette, its subtle spell is powerful. Two tapestries made for her patron Edward James feature animals promenading or trapped in a spider’s web, but playful delicacy dominates rather than romantic agony. Carrington’s suite of seven gouaches on vellum comes close to the medieval tradition, with mythical hybrid creatures inscribed and integrated into decorative patterns. “Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist” runs from April 3 to May 31 at Gallery Wendi Norris.


“Sanctuary for Furies” 1974

Leonora Carrington

Oil on canvas, 39" x 27"

© 2014 Leonora Carrington /

Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Photo: courtesy Gallery Wendi Norris