- Artist site (here)
- Works lost in Hurricane Sandy (here)
- Features/Reviews: ARTnews (here), TimeOut New York (here), Artinfo (here)
Monday, January 21, 2013
Diana Cooper, My Eye Travels* @Postmasters
JTF (just the facts): A total of 32 photographic works/installations, unframed and adhered directly to the walls, and hung in the entry area and the front and back gallery spaces. 15 of the works are photographs (digital c-prints?), ranging in size from 6x7 to 150x59; these prints are available in editions of 5. The rest of the works are mixed media sculptures/collages, ranging in size from 5x5 to 148x118; these works are either unique or available in editions of 2. All of the works were made in 2012-2013. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: With digital photography now increasingly ubiquitous and malleable as a medium, many artists that have traditionally spent their time exploring the boundaries of other materials have quietly begun to add a camera to their proverbial toolboxes. Given her history, Diana Cooper can in no way be rightfully categorized as a photographer; her previous works have generally lived in the realms of sculpture and installation, with a dash of painting and drawing thrown in for good measure. And yet, in her newest show, every single work is in some shape or form meaningfully photographic, and many are what we might call straightforward prints. It is clear that photography has been wholly absorbed into her artistic practice, offering her new methods for generating patterns and playing with space.
In her large mixed media installations, Cooper uses the flatness of photographs to provide a foundation layer for three dimensional building, where the rich textures of found objects are employed as collaged structural imagery. Pictures of bulbous green moss morph into real Astroturf, while photographs of tactile bales of recycled cans and paper and towers of stacked bins grow into plastic meshes of construction netting and rigid geometric filters and screens. In some cases, the photographs are used in layers of recursive reference, where images of red pipes and mirrors sit underneath physical manifestations of those same objects, pushing on notions of scale and repetition. In others, Cooper is drawn to simple ordered patterns, where candy colored stadium seats are piled into a flattened uneven kaleidoscope of multiplied visual motifs. In every case, the photographs fit seamlessly into her systematic approach to construction, mixing the crispness of man made images with the organic overlapped chaos of her open ended installations.
The rest of the works on view play with the trompe l'oeil properties of photography, adding extra air vents and skylights to the gallery space. Flat security cameras and monitors float on walls and in corners, while a fake security gate is pulled down near the door. She even adds extra metal plates to the floor and jams in a few stand pipes along one wall. Overall, it's an effective, mind bending manipulation of the space. I didn't see these photographs as particularly durable stand alone works, but more as if she had made the whole gallery into one big Diana Cooper installation, with the jittering space bending in on itself.
I think there is a fascinating short term difference between contemporary photographers who add sculptural qualities to their work and sculptors who add photographic qualities to theirs. It seems to me that the photographer still tends to see the boundaries of the traditional print as sacred, building up with three dimensional textures and physical collaging/manipulations ("sculptural photography"), while the sculptor tends to see photography as something less fixed, to be employed in the more adaptable and extensible form of digital imagination ("photographic sculpture"). Eventually, I think they'll both end up in the same place, but for now, the approaches still have an intellectual point of view gap that separates them. Diana Cooper is clearly on the side of the sculptors, less interested in photography as an end point in and of itself, and more concerned with how photographic imagery can be used to extend and enhance her already complex artistic investigations. But those of us interested in the future of photography need to track artists like her, as she's showing us an alternate path, and one that will ultimately merge with the one we're following.
Collector's POV: The works in this show range in price from $1000 for the smallest single image photographs to $40000 for the largest mixed media installations. Cooper's work has very little secondary market history (and none at all in the markets for photography), so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Diana Cooper, My Eye Travels*
Through February 9th
459 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011