"Whimsey II" (Group Exhibit)
"Repetition" An installation by Cris Moss

Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 207 SW Pine, 224-0521
Through Feb 2

"Whimsey II," the continued group exhibition at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, presents a catalogue of objects and images, produced by regional and national artists. The display is essentially light-hearted: It's an intriguing selection of work pronounced by vivid colors, unusual materials, and a humorous conceptual thread.

Gritty concepts are noticeably absent, replaced instead by a sly wit, manifested through well-made work. Some of the finer examples include an untitled wall installation by Hilary Pfeifer; the Portland artist displays an army of small, mixed media objects. Each is an abstract, cartoon-like conglomeration of fake-fur tufts and tendril appendages painted in candy hues. The group forms a loose grid, which contrasts well against the white, gallery wall. Vegetable, insect, and sea creature inspirations light up in Pfeifer's work, which make appreciating the artist's intent fairly easy. The objects are, quite simply, fun-filled oddities.

A small cast of sculptures by Horatio Hung-Yan Law provides a tidy compliment to Pfeifer's carnival. The leader of Hung-Yan Law's comical pack is entitled "White Polka-Dot Minnie" (shown above). The small, mixed media piece is essentially a Minnie Mouse figure, cast in what appears to be plaster. Hung-Yan Law then surfaces the famous rodent in a putrid pink color. Minnie's fur is realized by an unusual material: a meticulously applied pattern of black and white rice suggests prickly stubble. Instead of evoking the "feminine mouse," this Minnie presents the transvestite version of Disney.

Gallery newcomer Cris Moss inserts a startling contrast to the tone of "Whimsey," with an installation entitled "Repetition"--a mixture of still and moving images that work together to form a rather serious albeit statement. This said, connecting Moss' dots is at times a chore, but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Moss includes a linear series of video stills, which capture the movement of a needle from an antique sewing machine into white fabric. During this action, a red substance bleeds through the fabric, suggesting the machine had pierced something more than cotton. While this does come across as a bit of cheap gore, the images set an eerie tone for the rest of the installation's elements.

On the floor of the installation, Moss places two, white cotton work shirts. In the cuff of each garment is a small, black and white monitor. On one, a fast-paced text montage reads, "I hate the way I fucking read and write." The other monitor plays a rough animation. A faceless stick-figure stabs methodically into a garbage can. At the end of this angsty spree, garbage flies out of the can, revealing that the figure's attempts at tidiness are futile.

The final element of "Repetitions" is a larger monitor, showing a slow time-lapse. The fairly simple loop shows a hand placing apples against a plain background. Over time, each apple "magically" turns into an apple core. In the end, the "eaten" portions of these apples return to the scene in a cascade of apple chunks. The symbolic significance of the apple is, of course, not lost. What is more interesting is the replacement of the fruit--by attempting to return the apples to their whole, the work suggests a certain guilt, a recognition of the wrong choice.

Though Moss certainly does not spell anything out here, the installation does evoke a general sense of alienation and desperation. He combines a set of symbols to remark on the process of living, exposing the futile and boring aspects connected to daily repetition.