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Detail from Suzanne Husky's Sleeper CellThe opening party for Bay Area Now 6 (BAN6), at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, was approaching lift-off as we left the building. The line to get in stood four deep and wrapped around the corner of Mission and Third. People in the queue could start their exhibition viewing with a green neon marijuana leaf mounted by the main entrance, a component of Tony Labat's conceptual work on medical marijuana. Once inside, persistent (and, given the thickening of the crowd, maybe pushy) viewers would find a precisely curated show with work by 18 artists--a small number compared to previous versions of the triennial survey. Change is good; although we missed the daring juxtapositions that characterized BAN5, curators Betti-Sue Hertz, Julio César Morales, and Thien Lam present a clear thesis about what matters in Bay Area art now. The emphasis is on work that seamlessly incorporates both "technology" and "handiwork;" as in Suzanne Husky's Sleeper Cell Hotel, charming cocoons of scavenged wood circling a video viewing area. Every work is well-crafted although several use raw materials to make a point. Nothing is dizzy, chancy, or even particularly playful; what the show loses in energy it makes up in focus. Perhaps this direction is just what the Bay Area needs now; one thing is certain—arguing the point will be the art world's summer sport. The exhibition continues through September 25.

- Meredith Tromble [Friday, July 8th, 2011]

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