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September 20th, 2006 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Too Cool For School

Sean Healy takes us back to high school—and leaves us stranded.

     
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Sean Healy tackles the ever-scary, still scarring phenomenon of high school in his show Supernormal at Elizabeth Leach. John Hughes had his way with high school, American Pie screwed it to the sticking point and now Healy weighs in with this materially rich but conceptually undercooked show. Off the bat, let's establish this: Supernormal would have been better in a smaller space. Healy's last show was at the old Liz Leach location downtown, where it fit the space and vice versa. The current outing needs intimacy of scale to establish its viewpoint, and that opportunity—and that viewpoint—are both lacking in the new location's oppressively cavernous front gallery. A themed show such as this also needs a more consistent visual style, but Healy is all over the place. In Egghead, he casts chewing gum wads into a sculpted portrait of Melville Dewey, inventor of the eponymous Decimal System. He deploys cut aluminum in Bully, shaping it into a giant vulture. He turns photographer in The Student Body, four prints of a schoolboy in different outfits. And in Behind the Bus Garage he uses hundreds of cigarette butts as media, a move that would have seemed more audacious had Troy Briggs not done the same thing two years ago at Gallery 500.

Among the more successful pieces are Ammo, a glistening orgy of cast rubber bands, and Test Protector, a broken circle of multicolored cast pencils sticking up as if ready to impale. Two pieces made from faceted glass are real stunners: Climber, in which 14 geode-like prisms spiral up a wooden column, and Class Ring, with its 36 prisms in a great circle. Healy works a day job as coldworker at glass artist Henry Hillman's foundry, and his expertise in glassworking shows in the chromatic purity of these pieces, their sophisticated alternation of opacity and transparence. As an artist, Healy is technically accomplished and thematically ambitious, but he seems to have lost focus this time around. The show has too many media and too little viewpoint.


417 NW 9th Ave., 224-0521. Closes Sept. 30.
 
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