Art Review: Jesus Correa on cutting edge at Kortman

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114064157531440.jpg’, ‘Photo by Susan Webb Tregay’, ‘A Piglet figure in Jesus Correa's "Scrabble is for Nonbelievers", featured at Kortman Gallery.’);

Kortman Gallery proudly presents Jesus Correa, a young, local artist exhibiting in his first solo show. Correa says he is self-taught, and he isn’t into art history. But he is on the cutting edge of the art being created today. Come and enjoy his work, think about his messages and see what is current.

Why does his work weave into today’s contemporary art scene? He uses flat, pastel, playful colors. He creates a hypothetical space for his fantasies. And he tells stories with his art. (For a long time, this was a no-no, but now narrative art is back with a vengeance.)

Though Correa says he isn’t “into art history,” his genre of painting will certainly be in future history books. What fascinates me about this artist is where and how he absorbed what I have studied long and hard to learn.

Several of his pieces are temporal ones. Designed like cartoon panels, they tell a story step-by-step. “1, 2, 3 Die” tells four morality tales. The first set of four panels tell us “don’t get greedy.” Here, a small cartoon character is tethered to what might be a large, angry, red speech-bubble. As the speech-bubble gets smaller in each panel, the figure inflates and finally bursts. Could these panels be about a long-winded politician? Other panels in this piece warn a Piglet/rabbit-like character to “Watch your back.” “Don’t get a big head” is the third commandment. The fourth seems to be the mantra of today’s young men, “Don’t get attached,” in which an overweight character is suspended precariously by two balloons.

Interestingly, each of these warnings are written in press-type. I love how Correa took this graphic arts material that was so common in his childhood and used them in his work. He has turned them into simple icons of the 1980s. Are we creating antiques faster than we used to?

Another painting features a child’s figure in a red, hooded sweatshirt walking on orange ground with a pink sky. Penned-in curlicues are falling from the sky in this three-paneled piece. Is this snow in the hotly-colored landscape? No, they are atoms. The painting is titled “You Are more than Random Atoms.” This piece is life-affirming, while others are instructive or frank. Each has a lesson to teach as well as a story to tell.

Painted on found surfaces, from glass to salad bowls, each surface helps direct its piece. One round painting features Correa’s Piglet/rabbit character in a piece titled “Scrabble is for Nonbelievers.” Like the other small people and beasts populating his work, the figures are painted simply and drawn in with a thin ink line. These are his signature figures—Correa petroglyphs. The scrabble letters within this piece spell “Believe in yourself, God damn it.” In the final panel of the piece, Piglet says “No one takes me seriously.”

I take this work seriously. It is fun. It uses fresh, vibrant colors. It has Winnie the Pooh’s wisdom, the simplicity of Pat the Bunny, and the weird world of Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. “Canejo Blanco (the White Rabbit) and the Candy Coated Hate Pill of Doom” is a trip into the childhood and the mind of Jesus Correa.

Kortman Gallery is upstairs from the J.R.Kortman Center for Design at107 N. Main St. in Rockford. Store and gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 968-0123 for more information. Jesus Correa’s exhibition will be on view through March 4.

Susan Webb Tregay is an artist and author living in Rockford. Check out her Web site

From the Feb. 22-28, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!