Art Review: Jesus Correa’s ‘mysterious’ world

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116966644723152.jpg’, ‘Photo by Susan Webb Tregay’, ‘Jesus Correa is young, and his imagery is from his childhood—and ours. His work, though, is old, wise and timeless.‘);

Since Jesus Correa first broke into the art scene (yes, these are strangely exciting words for Rockford artists to contemplate) at Kortman Gallery last January, his reputation has grown, but his work remains true to his sense of self. The Rockford Art Museum’s new group, Visual Interest, recently sponsored Correa in their first in a bi-monthly “Third Thursdays” series. These one-evening shows are held in Brio’s wonderful stone basement, 515 E. State St., Rockford.

Correa’s paintings are ink with cartoon-style imagery. No Manga drawings here. These recall a simpler time, while evoking contemporary messages just below the surface. His choice of pretty pastel colors and a warm red confirm this contradictory style. Painted on found materials—old boards and inverted wooden bowls—many of these look whimsical and easy on the eye, but they are not easy on the brain. They require work from the viewer, and this is what makes them special.

In today’s world, Correa’s long, thin painting of Winnie the Pooh stepping off a chair with a noose around his neck is disturbing—as viscerally disturbing as you can get with Winnie the Pooh. The noose, though, is a long, fine string, and it is attached to a floating red balloon rather than a beam. This troubling piece makes us think—and laugh uneasily. As the years go by, this piece will take on new meanings and never grow insipid. This is Correa’s gift, and his gift to us.

A tiny self-portrait with his hand covering much of his face gives us a glimpse into his mind. About 2 1/2 inches square, he has painted himself in a green that is both nauseous and trendy today. This shy work, on a found bit of board, and in currently fashionable colors, reflects Correa’s perception of himself. While he created a large, wonderful self-portrait poster for the show, this tiny piece is mesmerizing. As part of this opportunity, each artist who participates in the series of shows will be asked to create a self-portrait for a portfolio of posters that will be given to the supporters of Visual Interest.

Other pieces in Correa’s show are much more difficult “reads.” They are a tangle of visceral imagery evoking brains, intestines and the complicated lives we lead. In one such piece, the ink work is coarsely handled, and the board that it’s painted on is smudged and abused. It shows a jeans-clad male figure stuck in a very large glob of something. What? This embryo-like glob of “cells” is left to the viewer to interpret—and reinterpret as the world and the viewer changes and ages.

Jesus Correa is young, and his imagery is from his childhood—and ours. His work, though, is old, wise and timeless. Created with contemporary colors and currently-trendy found materials, he creates a dichotomy of the old and new, which I find fascinating. This exhibition was for just one night, but watch out for him in other venues, and approach his work with an open mind. You will find yourselves drawn into his mysterious, yet all too familiar, world. This is what Jesus does.

Young artists (in today’s nomenclature this term has expanded to age 45) interested in possibly participating in shows such as these can get in touch with Visual Interest through the Rockford Art Museum. This organization grew out of, and recently replaced, the Young@Art group. They are planning six one-evening shows a year, but, at present, there is no application process.

Susan Webb Tregay is an artist and author living in downtown Rockford. Her new book and DVD, Master Disaster, will be out in mid-March.

From the Jan. 24-30, 2007, issue

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