Holly Andres Holly Andres

Ijust want to talk about it, okay? I'm not here to hurt anybody's feelings, and nobody's in trouble. But I signed up to share my thoughts on this show because I love photography, particularly the "new" and "current" kind—the kind that has "direction."

But when a show bills itself as "current" and "new," I thought it fair to expect work that hasn't been shown 17,453 times in Portland already. Maybe the works of these eight photographers are new to Vancouver, but some of this work is more overexposed than a retired nudist in Tucson.

Mark Hooper is present with the same work that was seen at Pushdot last year and in the Oregon Biennial this summer, during which period I can't remember anybody pointing out the enormous debt his staged scenes owe to the photography of Robert ParkeHarrison.

Holly Andres, Portland's most celebrated young photographer, is here with her (very familiar) hyper-posed, artificially lit scenes of pre-adolescent suburban ennui. I can understand why everybody likes these: They're well crafted and they hearken eastward to fancy art made in bigger cities. But they're so stylized that I frequently feel like I'm looking at a Kate Spade ad rather than fine art. Beyond their initial appeal, the photographs, like their sheltered subjects, appear to be trapped in a stylistic black hole of vacuity.

Daniel Barron's abstract close-ups of body fragments and gooey, milky liquids manage to turn repulsion into beauty and look great on the wall.

As for the rest of the photographers in the show, I was so appalled by the levels of clichés, maudlin sentimentalities, and student-level craftsmanship, that I felt embarrassed for the medium of photography.

There was, mercifully, one artist whose work looked current, new, and possessive of direction: Liz Haley, whose mysterious, painterly montages of appropriated imagery were genuinely exciting, fascinating, and fresh. Somebody needs to get Haley a solo show in Portland soon, so we can be reminded that photography has the potential to be cerebral, sexy, and funny, and not just tired and derivative. How's that for a new direction?