Reviews

Sean Healy at Elizabeth Leach

Portland, Oregon

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Sean Healy, American Muscle, (black cherry), 2014, resin-coated cigarette filters, 46" x 46" x 3". COURTESY THE ARTIST AND ELIZABETH LEACH GALLERY, PORTLAND

Sean Healy, American Muscle, (black cherry), 2014, resin-coated cigarette filters, 46" x 46" x 3".

COURTESY THE ARTIST AND ELIZABETH LEACH GALLERY, PORTLAND

n “Extroverts” Sean Healy deployed a broad array of mediums to render and subtly undercut such archetypal symbols of masculinity as big-game trophies, laurel wreaths, and the “grill” of gold teeth sported by hip-hop stars. Winner (all the works were from 2014), a wreath cut from sheet aluminum, is painted mint-green and butterscotch, its calmative colors an ironic counterpoint to the image’s associations with Greco-Roman conquests. In Minor Body Damage, an image of a jawbone fitted with gold teeth, one of the teeth is conspicuously missing.

Cigarettes, which the artist has used as a material since 2008, were deployed in abstract “paintings” made of cigarette filters coated with auto-body enamel and collectively titled “American Muscle.” The show also included large-scale drawings of animal horns rendered in cigarette ash. Here the artist’s delicacy of line contrasted with the drawings’ gritty texture, imparted by stray chunks of burnt tobacco. And a lone cigarette is central, literally and metaphorically, to the video installation Smudge. The title refers to smudge sticks used in Native American purification rituals, but in Healy’s film, what is burned is a pollutant: a cigarette standing obelisk-like, smoke rising from it as it slowly burns into a column of ash. In this work, and throughout the exhibition, Healy suggests that machismo inevitably carries with it an embedded Achilles’ heel.

A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 124.

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