Sean Healy
Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 224-0521
Through July 14

The Elizabeth Leach Gallery presents "Nesting Instinct," a collection of recent work by Portland artist Sean Healy. The exhibit is a nice follow-up to the artist's past success, and the current work reveals a growth in Healy's conceptual savvy and a maturation of his technical skills.

His artist statement matches the exhibit's tone: He writes, "Nesting Instinct was inspired by, and is a direct statement on, the nostalgic reflection to times past.." Photographic images are imbedded in sleek foundation of glass, resin, and steel. These elements combine to form a uniquely modern photo album. Healy reflects upon past and present relationships, and highlights notions of family.

At his best, Healy's nostalgia surfaces in a lovely melding of materials. The light-bound qualities of glass and resin blend well with the grainy, blurred images: An illuminated and ethereal display unfolds. The best example of this effect is found within "The Attraction of the Group." [Detail above] Keeping with his signature style, Healy presents two vertical slabs of clear resin. A smart, steel armature extends the pieces away from the wall and allows for a play with light. On the surface, Healy pencils a grid of gray circles. Underneath this a large, grainy, color photograph is sandwiched in the resin. It is a muted neon scene; yellowish light casts a 1970s mood over a sparse interior space.

Also captive to the resin is a troop of Monarch butterflies. Hidden amongst this orderly group, Healy places a contrasting image: a tiny picture of an overhead lighting fixture. He sneaks in just the right dose of humor, a sarcastic dig at mob mentality.

"Growth Spurt Summer," offers a more personal reflection. A single slab of resin holds a cast of images that reflect opposing themes of migration and settlement. On the surface, Healy repeats the grid of circles--compass manipulations in tones of yellow, orange, and blue. These colors are mirrored in the work's central element: A grid of 100 small rectangular blocks.

In these forms, Healy inserts appropriated images of birds, building on notions of migration. The concept of settlement is explored in a bottom row of snapshots that feature the family home. The piece is a tight package: Formally, the work is a playful, powered by candy colors and a marriage of simple geometric forms. Conceptually, Healy offers a poetic understanding of a familiar, human dichotomy.

While "Nesting Instinct," is generally a solid show, there are a few occasions when Healy's dialogue clouds over. The cause of this glitch is the physical presence of some photographs. For example, in the piece "Most Likely to Succeed/Class Clown," Healy delivers interesting images stocked with humor, but the object quality of the prints becomes the focus. The bubbling of the resin and the blown-out, grainy quality of the images override Healy's clean presentation and the loveliness of the resin. The tones of the imagery fight with the tones of the resin; the two palettes don't gel as successfully as in other works. The viewer becomes side-tracked, considering the relationship between materials, rather than considering the meaning of the work. This criticism aside, "Nesting Instinct," creates an opportunity for the viewer to revel in nostalgic tendencies as the artist embraces his.