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Judy Cooke: Tarps 1973-76

Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR Sept 5-28

Judy Cooke – Sienna Curve
Judy Cooke, Sienna Curve (1973), charcoal on canvas tarp [Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR, Sept 5-28]

The Elizabeth Leach Gallery features an exhibition of work that Pacific Northwest painter Judy Cooke produced in the mid-seventies and has never exhibited.

Tarps 1973-76 are made of weathered pieces of canvas that have been assembled to create large scale fabric collages. These have the feeling of a highly contemporary, non-functional minimalist quilt. Each tarp contains a network of charcoal drawings that are as much about geometry as they are about gesture. For Cooke these works were essentially about the freedom of large materials, letting the walls define the edges of each piece, rather than works that had to be put under glass. “The tarps had an informality, and there was something casual about the working process. They felt like blackboards to me. Because they were large and on fabric, it was like coming in the back door on painting.”

They resemble pages of an artist’s or draftsman’s sketchbook, blown up to the scale of a banner. These tarps are rich with textures, that are expressive and organic. This is due partly to Cooke’s quality of line and partly to the raw canvas material that serves as a ground in the works. The rivet holes edging each piece of canvas also gives the work a tactile element that is almost sculptural, formally making these pieces seem very finished, although they are unstretched.

Cooke’s work has gone through many evolutions, and experiments since the creation of Tarps 1973-76. The Marylhurst Art Gym will open a retrospective of Cooke’s work in an exhibit titled Celebration After the Fact: A Retrospective, 1973-2001 (Sept 22-Oct 24.) Spanning three decades, Cooke’s work serves as an example of a committed vision to non-objectivity while conducting explorations of materials ranging from rubber to copper, irregularly shaped wood surfaces, combined with her multi-layered paintings and drawings. Cooke’s retrospective, will include works from the Tarps series, oils on canvas from the same period, and her current multi-part oil and alkyd works on wood.

© Allyn Cantor


 Tue, Sep 3, 2002