Combining a bright, rich paint palette with cartoonish figures, Corey Lamb imbues weighty societal questions with a wry sense of humor in his fourth solo exhibition with Hashimoto Contemporary, Maiden. The artist explores Western archetypes of women and their sociological and biological double bind: to procreate as the fair maiden or abstain as the old maid. Linking existentialism and eroticism, Lamb attempts to reframe our relationship to sex and sexuality, urging viewers to evaluate how cultural attitudes towards this often taboo subject form personal values, identities, and fates.

Cartoonish depictions of sinister skeletons, sad clowns, twisted mothers, and tragic youths relay familiar societal narratives regurgitated in new forms century after century. Though inspired by 18th- and 19th-century history paintings, Lamb opts for simplicity over ornamentation as the vessel for his grand narratives: A woman carrying a decapitated head could be Judith slaying Holofernes or Salome killing Saint John; a circle of women dancing might be muses celebrating spring or witches casting a spell; a mother bent over her child may be Eve, the first woman and mother in paradise, or Mary, mother of the savior of a fallen world.

While leaving crumbs of irony, Lamb approaches these new paintings with honesty, vulnerability, and earnestness. Each piece depicts an initial moment of attraction, courtship, transformation, and failure that compose the maiden archetype’s life cycle. Skulls and skeletons act as the old maid’s memento mori, reminding viewers of the maiden’s social death brought on by biological pressures. Limp figures experiencing “melancholic deflation” push against constructed systems rooted in nature, throwing punches that land like pillows. Together, the works in Maiden unpack the point of view of entitled and disappointed men, fearful of the women who break from the archetype.