Most of us would just as soon forget all about our high school years, rather than, say, revisit them as the inspiration for a new body of work. Sean Healy marks the exception with Supernormal, which draws on the iconic imagery of high school. In his cast resin works, strength-training weights hang from the wall in two circular, mosaic-like arrangements, and across the gallery, two water fountains erupt with mountainous piles of chewed gum. "Egghead" presents a headshot of Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, made entirely of chewing gum that has been stuck to the bottom of an overturned library table. There's playful nostalgia in his exaggerated depictions, but Healy's slick production values preserve an air of cool detachment. As these pieces interact with other works that stray from the scholastic theme, though, the show becomes more satisfyingly complex.
For example, along the gallery's east wall, a bright yellow chick scrambles and two hens stretch their legs in awkward escape, seemingly emerging from a slim photo mural of a forest. Given that the piece is titled "Bullied," it becomes clear that the three figures—aluminum-cut silhouettes—are fleeing a predator lurking on the adjacent wall. Nestled in between the two free-weight arrangements, an enormous, aluminum-cut vulture, titled "Bully," winds its claws around an invisible perch and casts its gaze over the gallery, as if eyeing its prey. This power relationship creates a smart associative link to the imagery of high school, a space where a similar eat-or-be-eaten mentality governs the student body.
While Healy's polished execution places him among the city's best artists, a large part of Supernormal's fun is the scarcely concealed critique of an art world where popularity and connections ensure success. Between the birds and the high school iconography, Healy portrays the art world as ruled by a pecking order, dictated by fashion and the façade of being perceived as "cool." It's an order he does his best to upend, metaphorically, with the "turned" library table and the wall-mounted weightlifter's doughnuts that appear, oddly, weightless. But, like students switching seats on the substitute, Healy's commentary is subtle enough that his targets won't even know the joke's on them. JOHN MOTLEY