23+ on 9th
Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Ave, reception Thursday, January 6, 6 pm

Elizabeth Leach's new gallery space is gorgeous. It's difficult to parse out the distinctive charm of white walls and hardwood floors, but it's safe to say this is the most beautiful space in town. To celebrate the new digs, and the gallery's 23rd birthday, Leach has assembled a group of more than 40 gallery artists for 23+ on 9th. In many ways, it is fitting display for the gallery, illustrating its balanced commitment to local and national talent--Robert Mapplethorpe photographs hang on the wall with Sean Healy's watercolors, and drawings by Louise Bourgeois face works by M.K. Guth. On the whole, the show suffers from the random assortment; it seems to be more of a "greatest hits" collection than a proper, cohesive exhibit.

The space is the real star here. Purchased by Leach and local collector Sarah Meigs, the property is more than a beautiful interior. Its heart-of-the-Pearl location places it in the middle of first Thursday traffic, meaning that once a month it will be packed with people you've never seen, ogling works by artists they've never heard of. It also features a large backroom for cataloguing work and facilitating the kind of wheeling and dealing that you and I only dream about.

The real fun of 23+ on 9th is fantasizing about slipping into this back room to calmly discuss the details of purchasing one of the show's major works. I mean, what if you had the cash to throw down for Kiki Smith's "Counsel"? The large bronze sculpture features a group of owls on a table surrounded by chairs, with a larger owl perched high above, facing the wall like a distant, feathered deity. Imagine the possibilities in your apartment. Guests would be forced to sit around the edge of the room, conversation would pass over the motionless birds and all the while, somewhere in the corner, the god-owl would ignore everyone. You could spend your mornings sitting at the table, drinking coffee, naming the birds, planning your day. "Counsel" could transform your life into some bizarre, art-filled metallic estuary, and once you cash that $30 check your uncle sent you for Christmas, you are only $124,970 short.