Linda Warren Projects welcomes the spring season with “Ascend” by Emmett Kerrigan, the artist’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. Kerrigan, a trained painter and self-taught woodworker who moves effortlessly between materials, presents a new body of work of abstracted landscapes in the form of painting, sculpture, and installation. An ardent Chicagoan, Kerrigan has spent a career inspired by the urban and rural landscapes of home, working in an individual style that is distinctively his own.
In this latest exhibition, Kerrigan’s vibrant farmscape paintings make their triumphant return to the main space of the gallery, however, the artist now departs from his previous practice of assembling collected regional imagery into new compositions, and instead constructs images of his own invention. For these are not true landscapes, but idealistic visions of imaginary places Kerrigan cannot reach, trips he longs to take. And we, the viewers, are invited to join the artist as he navigates through terrains of vibrant blues and greens, subdued yellows, and rich earth tones. From our vantage point, we are ascending up over the scene, provided with the compacted view akin to looking out of a plane’s window. The artist deliberately limits our view to one that’s in transit – in some paintings, we have the innate sense that more lies beyond the pictorial plane, while in others, echoes of the markings of the land extend beyond simulated frames in a calculated indication that there is more to see. While the paintings are conceptually astounding, it is their materiality that is most impressive. Kerrigan’s process is an exhaustive practice of building layers upon layers of paint on to the surface that he then manipulates with a palette knife, pushing up the paint to create ridges marking boundaries that are both physical and psychological. As each ridge grows more defined, plots of land organically present themselves, occasionally overflowing into and intermixing with their neighboring spaces, giving each work a sense of history similar to the lands that inspire them. The texture is so rich that every shifting light provides a new experience – an ever-changing destination. From a distance, they stand as impressive color-fields, however, upon closer inspection, the discoveries are endless.
Kerrigan extends the physicality of his paintings in Gallery X with a site-specific installation. EL 598.99 and Alt 618.10, are imposing and voluminous structures, made of interlocking pieces of salvaged wood, that shift and morph as the viewer interacts with them. Like a jigsaw puzzle, Kerrigan began by arranging and rearranging individual geometrical pieces, in dialogue with one another, to build a spontaneous and complete form. One large-scale sculpture cascades down across the floor, while its counterpart wraps around the opposing wall, creating a physical environment that tempts the viewer to step into the space, however, this space is meant to be contemplative – the artist provides handcrafted cylindrical benches, inviting us to inwardly experience his constructed landscape. Emmett Kerrigan has exhibited extensively across Chicago and the Midwest, including solo exhibitions at the Elmhurst Art Museum, Contemporary Art Center of Peoria, The University Club of Chicago, The Union League Club of Chicago, Beverly Arts Center in Chicago and The Ohio State University. His work can be found in numerous prestigious corporate collections, including Wellington Management, Kirkland & Ellis, The Sandor Family Collection, the East Bank Club and Eaton Center in Cleveland. Kerrigan received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and also studied at the Chautauqua School of Art and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.