Magazine article Artforum International

Alika Cooper

Magazine article Artforum International

Alika Cooper

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO

ELEANOR HARWOOD GALLERY

In LA's textile district, acres of warehouse space are packed with bolts of fabric shoulder to shoulder in rotund cylinders and flatboarded stacks Three, four, five deep, they quietly rub against one another--satin sliding against royal velvet brushing cottons rough and fine; patterns of interlocking diamonds and pulsating paisleys clashing with fields of tiny flowers splayed across expanses of beige, for a grand optical performance. Taken at once, this heterogeneous melange hints at the infinitude of combinatorial possibility. In this spirit, Los Angeles--based artist Alika Cooper rearticulates the photographic form via a kind of "painting" as craft, layering textiles into compositions of landscapes and bodies. Though the handling of fabric usually belongs to the soft domain of women's work, Cooper's images are sourced from compositionally assertive photos shot by men.

In "Cherried," Cooper's exhibition at the newly opened Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco, different, patterned fabrics are pulled across stretcher bars and collaged to form pictures brought together in a profusion of peculiar combinations. Each of the artist's eleven cloth-based "paintings" on view depicts different bodies, all tensely sexualized, in compositions drawn from the work of three classic photographers of the female form: Heinz Hajek-Halke, Helmut Newton, and Brassai. To make each work, Cooper first tacks a base fabric across stretcher bars and then shapes her compositions by adhering bits of carefully cut cloth to the surface with glue. The resulting soft polychromatics distance the stark black-and-whites of the photos she is referencing. But the material also works in other ways to contrast with the subjects it depicts. The product of a long line of lady crafters, the artist appears to have sheared her material from the prairie dresses of Protestant farmers' daughters. …

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