Art Criticism and Writing | MFA Program

Thursday February 21st, 2013
Filed under Spring 2013

Diana Cooper, “My Eye Travels,” at Postmasters Gallery

by Melissa Amore

Diana Cooper, "My Eye Travels," installation view. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery.

Why do we hunt for the organic amid the artificial, or the tangible inside the illusion? What is not a copy of its predecessor? Diana Cooper’s recent solo exhibition, “My Eye Travels,” fosters an optical deception of sorts, a falsity alongside the real. As the title proposes, the eye travels beyond the conventional viewing contours of the gallery and creates a mutating formation that spans the entire space. Architecture as a living organism breeds in hallucinogenic installations that include collaged photographs of traffic cones, mall escalators, construction machinery, shopping carts, synthetic ‘turf’ and discarded utilitarian objects. These elements combust and erode into interrelated organic constellations. Employing the gallery’s interior as her muse, Cooper interrupts the spatial order of things and disorients the viewer, challenging us to search for originals amid their replicas.

Diana Cooper, Audience (2012-13), photographs/digital collage, 110 x 117 inches. Courtesy Postmasters Gallery.

The viewer’s judgment is questioned at entry. What appear to be ventilation outlets located in the top right corner of the gallery’s largest room are actually black and white photographs mirroring an adjacent vent. Amid this kind of optical play, the viewer becomes actively engaged in decoding Cooper’s language. An evident clue is the frequent use of flight imagery, which alludes to a metaphysical oscillation between the reality-grounded and the fictive. Take, for example, the small mixed media collage Jetway 1 (2012-13), in which the viewer is led up a row of escalators though construction obstacles barricade the access point. The much larger Bale (2012-13) directly positions the viewer inside an airplane, within a chaotic web of photographs of shopping baskets and bales of shredded paper interwoven with graffiti and Cooper’s own hand-drawn marks. Again, the interplay with the gaze is critical; an airplane window opens new points of departure. In another large collage, Audience (2012-13), undulating rows of stadium seating are transfigured into structured geometries and metrical patterns. Cooper has arrived at formal symmetry by finding artificial color harmonies among the objects she juxtaposes. Variations of black and white have been utilized as nexus points, establishing order or deconstructing it.

The exhibition is regularly interrupted by images of surveillance cameras, directing their eyes towards the observer. The relationships among the viewer, the camera lens and the object are pertinent. Peepholes and reflections are another catalyst in Cooper’s new work, where we are provoked to read things we perhaps would normally avoid. Cooper questions what is fictitious in a world constructed by multiple realities. A timely exhibition, “My Eye Travels” is a nomadic simulation that reflects a moment of disillusion, experimentation and chaos.

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