With scenes from never-composed narratives, intimate visions of nonexistent people, and humorous versions of classical painterly genres, Jane Corrigan inserts viewers into a world she remakes in her own image. She’s a woman creating brilliant deconstructions of artistic tradition in a history of male-dominated painting.
Corrigan turns, quite logically, to parody. Take the painting The Noise Upstairs (Creep), 2015: it portrays a stage-set house, a fire burning at the vanishing point to provide the appropriately Gothic lighting, a female figure, lamp in hand, peering up a flight of stairs. The energy derives from horror movies, but the intrepid female investigating a mysterious noise will not be deterred, not even by the little demon waiting out of sight on the left. She will bring light into darkness, much as Corrigan dispels the spirits of the art world.
Spies (2016), a grand scale (70 by 55 inches) oil, captures two damsels not in distress. These renegade Nancy Drews are peering around trees in order to find out just what’s going on in the teepee the boys have erected in the backyard. They urge silence and caution on each other because, like Corrigan, they must use stealth to accomplish their task.
A small oil, Kitchen after Hours (Doggies), 2015, conjures the world of the Dutch interior, not the decorous perspectives of Vermeer but the riotous chaos of Franz Hals. There are two light sources just to remind us of Dutch technique, but the dog is still pilfering the bone. Perhaps, this is the point: Corrigan must steal the scene and make it hers by recasting it in her signature style. To reinvent tradition, she must resort to crime.
The palm-size oil sketches in a small group show at 247365 gallery (through February 7) continue Corrigan’s reconstruction of tradition: in Working from Observation (2012), the female artist dutifully paints a portrait of a skeleton, reprising the long tradition of women portraitists—Vigée Lebrun, for instance—while reminding us that this role, too, implies a subordination of genius to subject. Less overt, more audacious is a brilliant still life composed of abused cheese and spilled milk. In this tiny gem, Corrigan rethinks Chardin’s brilliant The White Tablecloth (1731–32): instead of Chardin’s aftermath of lunch—spills, crumbs, and stains—Corrigan suggests that tradition be viewed as a compost heap: out of the rot will spring new life. Corrigan knows exactly what she’s doing.