Jennifer Cronin’s new paintings mark an interesting shift in perspective for the artist. Previously, Cronin’s work was internally focused, largely consisting of self portraits in confined domestic spaces where psychological freight manifested in loose strokes of shadowy color lingering in corners of rooms or hovering above the artist lying in bed. Now she turns her eyes outward, first considering her coworkers in the customer service field who, staring into some other space, momentarily mentally remove themselves from their gray daily grind, the air above their heads inhabited by often luminous images of where they’d rather be. Cronin portrays the wandering of their minds as they work day jobs, imagining places like the Botanic Garden.
Across from these daydreamers on the east wall is a group of gorgeously rendered carbon pencil drawings of boarded-up and soon-to-be-demolished homes, each capturing a sense of vacancy, displacement, solitude and decay. Alongside these empty homes are paintings from a series called “Perception of What May Not Be”—in part derived from the Oliver Sacks book “Hallucinations”—in which a blighted industrial landscape is partly elided by two specifically shaped white fogs, while another scene shows a busy city center filled with people whose heads have vanished and have been replaced by soft blurs and distortions emanating from their shirt collars. This painting in particular ties the show together; on one wall, people wishing they were elsewhere, while across from them an entirely inhospitable elsewhere is presented, one that has already been condemned and forgotten by a city of people who themselves are vacant, merely bodies wandering through space with smudges on their consciousnesses.
While Cronin’s previous work brims with an intimate heaviness, it is exciting that the artist is examining the world outside with her talents. Perhaps satisfied by mining her own depths and discovering the occasionally dark places she herself needed to explore and wrestle with, Cronin is now comfortable delving into others, both known and unknown to her, in order to more fully express the world she is coming to understand, therefore commenting on a greater social dynamic. (Damien James)
Through May 6 at I Am Logan Square, 2644 North Milwaukee.