Sean Kelly Gallery is pleased to announce its fourth solo exhibition of the photographic works of Thomas Joshua Cooper, Moving West – Being West: New Photographs from the Atlantic Coasts. While Cooper's chosen medium is photography, his oeuvre has more in common with painters such as: Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, than any photographic reference. Over the past twenty-five years Cooper's vision has resulted in a unique and distinguished body of work that concentrates on the landscape as a metaphor for symbolic spaces and the traces left by the journeys to reach those spaces. The opening of the exhibition will take place on Thursday, January 25th from 6pm until 8pm. The artist will be present.
This exhibition brings together twenty-one new photographs made in the last two years. The works explore the process of journeying from the Old to the New World. On a literal level they address the epic travels of the pilgrims from Europe to the American continent. Cooper began his own pilgrimage on the coast of the English Channel looking west. Across the Atlantic Ocean, he photographed the sea from the Nova Scotia coast and from the northeastern most point of the continental United States looking east across the Atlantic. For example, a diptych includes one photograph that was made in Plymouth, England near the Mayflower Steps, the site from which the Mayflower was launched; the other was taken at Plymouth, Massachusetts not far from Plymouth Rock where the Mayflower landed. In the Old World he looks west, toward the future, while in America the gaze east is directed at the past. By investigating the migration of early Americans, Cooper's photographs of the sea evoke a sense of time and place as the pilgrims experienced it. The early Europeans' desire to discover a new world in quest of "paradise" while maintaining a sense of nostalgia and loss for their homeland is symbolized by the space that they passed through on their journey. Cooper's photographs subtly capture the meditative and metaphorical quality of that "in between" space.
Using an 1898 field camera, Cooper composes his images so that the scale of the composition is not always immediately apparent. The printing of the pieces further enhances the intense and emotive nature of his work. Cooper's technical mastery of the photographic medium is renowned. The images are subtly "under painted" chemically by laying down tones of blue and maroon, subsequent to the photographic printing process. This orchestrates and directs the viewers gaze in a particularly sophisticated compositional fashion. Cooper's editions are usually limited to a maximum of three prints, however his painterly process ensures that each print is effectively unique.
Thomas Joshua Cooper was born in San Francisco in 1946. Cooper is a member of the Cherokee nation (on his father's side) and, in his formative years, lived on Indian reservations throughout the western United States. He has resided in Glasgow, Scotland for the past twenty years where he is Professor and Head of the Department of Photography at The Glasgow School of Art. Cooper has exhibited widely in both museums and galleries around the world. His work is included in museum, public and private collections worldwide. In 1998 Cooper was the recipient of an important grant from the Lannan Foundation, which he has been using, in part, to complete a body of work, 10 years in the making, entitled The Great River – Rio Grande Crossings – From the Source to the Sea. The project will culminate in a major exhibition curated by Michael Govan, director of the DIA Center for the Arts, and in a comprehensive publication on Cooper's work. In addition a retrospective, curated by Robert Sobieszek, Deputy Director and Curator of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will take place in 2001-2002 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and will travel to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas as well as several other venues. A biography and bibliography are available on our website at www.skny.com.