Date: Wednesday November 3rd, 2010
Location: Queens NY
Elizabeth Cooper is the decider. Her abstract oil and enamel canvases incorporate combinations of colors and textures that involve unplanned actions and elements of chance. She achieves a complexity of color and layer through a lengthy process of combining at times incompatible materials, opacities and techniques from manipulated spills to knife and brushwork. Beth contrasts her spills by using shapes, which echo the spill but are intentionally drafted and often embellished by cartoonish highlights or shadows. Within a single painting she combines abstract expressionist and pop painting elements and attitudes. She starts each painting by applying a tinted ground that will remain the background color throughout the execution of subsequent painting actions. Beth explained that while each painting starts with an initial notion and color palette it often changes as she reacts to the painting process.
The group discussed which formal attributes and color relationships were most satisfying. In some paintings color palate and gestures denote an associative or narrative notion but do not go as far as to become representational. Participants seemed to respond to the paintings that were chromatically discordant or that connoted a “narrative” strife.
Must abstract paintings present or refer to content or context, or do they inherently contain within their content and history of abstract as a context? As in many discussions on abstract paintings participants debated whether content and contextual issues seem present in this work and the importance of content issues in abstract painting in general. In some instances the shapes and sizes of Beth’s paintings move toward an associative context. In her “scroll” series painted on long narrow canvases at once evoke a vertical human scale and the long format of traditional ‘Chinese’ scroll paintings. The large piece with a shimmery silver ground and orange and flesh-toned spills and painted protrusions emerging from each side of the canvas and meeting in the center is meant to evoke Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in composition and attitude.
Many of Beth’s paintings are untitled. She feels that titling her work can narrow the works apparent meaning. The group also discussed the use of titling to elucidate or over explain a work. While some participants thought that a work should speak for itself, others preferred a title that can open understanding into the work that may be otherwise difficult to some viewers.
Beth has been involved in a continuous practice in New York since her undergraduate days at Cooper Union and her graduate work at Columbia. During this time she has developed a process and material set in her work that morphs and changes incrementally over time. When asked what is next in her work Beth replied that the continuation of her work is her main focus.
MoMA Panel coming up to attend New Perspectives on Abstract Expressionism: A Young Scholars’ Panel