The curse of large-scale group shows is that they tend to be unwieldy and less than focused. Stuffed to the gills with new work from 15 artists, from local Leach Gallery staples to a few out-of-towners, FRESH is no exception. But there's enough compelling work here—particularly from young, up-and-coming Portlanders—to help you forgive the show's lack of coherence. Here are a few highlights:
•The most disarmingly beautiful work in the show belongs to Adam Sorensen, who presents two large oil canvases. In "Gefahl-La-Loo," the panoramic subject matter is rather pedestrian, although his execution is anything but. With mosaic-like blocks of muted pastels and electric-charged hues, Sorensen channels Matisse's assured coloration. The more menacing "Shade of Ghost Tree" is even better, as vertically organized splotches and dripping lines suggest the trunk of a tree. At the tree's base, the drooping petals of pink flowers and mushrooms outlined in neon green seem to inhabit another plane altogether, giving the piece a rich sense of dimensionality.
•Kristan Kennedy's two new works are far more subdued and slight than those in last year's Valentine Field, but these abstractions are equally mysterious. In "Hmpf," an amoeba-like blob of layered gesso hovers on black paper, which has been subtly worked up with an application of intricate graphite. Along with its sister piece, "Poof," these ghostly forms at once call to mind less representational versions of Philip Guston's hooded figures as well as Carroll Dunham's unmanageably cumbersome shapes.
•The show's most playful piece goes to Sean Healy's "King of the Jungle Gym," which holds down one of the gallery's back corners. Occupying the right half of the corner is a large, soft-focus photo mural of a sun-dappled autumn forest, uniformly rendered in oranges, yellows, and golds. On the left side, an aluminum-cut silhouette of the front half of a tiger lunges out of the mural, claws out. "King" creates a prankish tension between the displacement of the tiger in a woodsy setting and the way the vibrant colors of the tiger—here, metallic and sleek—seem to have been absorbed by the adjacent environment. The piece is also a strong indication that Healy's solo show at Elizabeth Leach in September will be well worth the wait.