About


"Cooper's 'Surf Beach Station' is compelling."
Daniella Walsh, art critic
"The fact is that when one stands in front of one of James Cooper's works, one wonders in this era of computer graphics, if his images have been manipulated. The answer is no; they are unmanipulated."
Antoinette Sullivan, Studio Gallery

Suggestive of the American modernism Precisionism movement, the work is characterized by the reduction of compositions to simple shapes and underlying geometrical structures, with clear outlines, minimal detail, unexpected viewpoints and framing, and an emphasis on the abstract form of the subject.

American Precisionists focused on selecting subjects from the American landscape and regional American culture. Many of the same artists applied their new style to long-familiar American scenes, such as agricultural structures and domestic architecture. Even such conventional motifs as a still life of fruit or flowers were treated to a fresh assessment in the Precisionist style. Their paintings, drawings, and prints also showed the influence of recent work by American photographers, such as Paul Strand, who were utilizing sharp focus and lighting, unexpected viewpoints and cropping, and emphasis on the abstract form of the subject.

The style is evident in Ellsworth Kelly's photographs, from 1950s through the 1980s of barns, their interlocking forms evoking the planes of his own paintings and sculptures. Central to many of these images are windows, roofs, and the shadows they cast. He explains that "[...] I'm not interested in the texture of the rock, or that it is a rock, but in the mass of it, and its shadow."

The connections between the Precisionist approach and a wider social context were strong. One view was the utopian ideal of technology bringing order to the modern world by enhancing the speed, efficiency, and cleanliness of everyday life. The opposing view stressed the dehumanizing effects of technology, warning that it would replace workers, create pollution, and dominate the landscape in a destructive manner. Occasionally, these two attitudes coexisted in an ambiguous tension within a single work of art.

"Artist friends would say to me, snickering a little, 'What can a camera do in making art. It is just a camera'. Then one of them asks for help in making an image with a camera (a backlit telephone pole with just the foot pegs lit). We made it, he showed it at Otis (College of Art and Design) and people said 'Wow, that's cool'."

By using just a camera and film, and not altering the film image in printing a photograph, what kind of images can be made?

Really the image should be an experience. It should shift you. Make you smile maybe. Remember when you were a child how a simple little thing could galvanize your entire being - time stood still and you felt totally connected to the world - there was a feeling of total contentment? And, an image made with film has a feel to it.

The photograph should be an accurate record of what the camera and film captured, with the absolute minimum disturbance of the captured image during the processing and finishing stages. A transparency film image processed through standard chemistry is the paradigm for an unmanipulated image. So, just a camera and some film.

 
 


Photographs by Cheryl