Emmett Kerrigan climbed onto the roof of his home and photographed views of his West Town neighborhood. Then he put those urban scenes into paint—the uniformly thick paint preferred by some self-taught artists and those who study that technique to deliver a sense of gut-felt immediacy rather than objective observation. And he handled it beautifully, even as the black power lines cut deep furrows through the billowing thick pigment. A sameness of focus throughout the visual field helps create a world that feels safe, lovable and familiar. Every red brick and every green leaf delivered me right back to a happy childhood in an aging city neighborhood not much different from his. Soft, clumpy waves of foliage nicely complement the hard edges of the buildings, producing an effect that is dreamy and mesmerizing. But that spell is absent in another group of paintings, where Kerrigan paints that same foliage all by itself, as single trees against a black background.
No longer creating a sense of time, place and personal feeling, these are more like formal studies in limited color and thinner paint. They challenge the viewer to find something of interest. They are more like the pages of instructional manuals in Chinese landscape painting that show the proper way to render a rock or bamboo tree. More like a dictionary than a poem. Kerrigan’s frank appeals to nostalgia are far more compelling. (Chris Miller)
Through February 15 at Linda Warren Projects, 327 North Aberdeen.