Artist Remarks on Artwork Placement
Art is often analyzed for its own merits; however, when artist Diana Cooper came to give a talk at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, she spoke mainly of how different works of art can be enhanced by their display. She met with a small group of listeners on September 18 to discuss the new art exhibit at the Allen, Repeat Performances: Seriality and Systems Art Since 1960.
Cooper believes that art is best understood when people can naturally involve themselves in its viewing.
“I am 5’7½” and I think of things in terms of my sight line,” said Cooper, referring to Leonardo Drew’s “Untitled” (1999), a wall-size sculpture. One feels as if one has the capability to walk into the artwork, she told the audience.
Repeat Performances showcases ’60s and ’70s minimalist art. The Ellen Johnson Gallery juxtaposes works by Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Jennifer Bartlett, Donald Judd, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Allan McCollum, Professor of Art John Pearson and others.
Each of the art pieces is very powerful individually, but they also work together to show how different artists experimented with abstract strategies at the same time, such as serial repetition, grids and reductive forms, to explore immediate visual impact. As Cooper noted, the artworks’ dominant connection is geometry; they all contain circles and squares.
Cooper studied literature and history at Harvard. In the mid-’90s she began experimenting with Sharpies and became obsessed with drawing tiny repetitive black circles. Since then, her catalog of work has incorporated more diverse materials, such as squares, cubes, pipe cleaners, Velcro, felt bands, pushpins, pom-poms and other curvilinear forms.
Cooper is about to open her exhibit at Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art on September 28. Beyond the Line will display a comprehensive presentation of her artwork from the late 1990s to the present. Several Oberlin College students are assisting her with the opening of the exhibit.
During her talk, Cooper spoke intimately about the different minimalist artists featured at the Repeat Performances exhibit and how many of them have profoundly influenced her own art work.
In the exhibit, Sol LeWitt’s “49 Three-Part Variations on Three Different Kinds of Cubes” (1967–71) and Hesse’s “Laocoon,” an 18-foot graphite drawing, stare at each other. The two artists, Cooper informed the audience, had an intense artistic relationship, and although both created very different works, they had a profound influence on each other throughout their careers.
LeWitt’s artwork, Cooper said, is awe-inspiring. He takes materials which are “so mundane and so basic and transforms that material into something so inspiring and surround-sound.”
She also spoke admiringly of Hesse’s “Laocoon:” “I wish I could do this. The fact that it is kind of beautiful and also kind of ugly…She is not thinking of aesthetics. There is a sense of discovery and experimentation…She is not caught up with it’ll look like, but what it feels like…It is charged with emotion.”
Cooper shared with attentive listeners her own beginnings in 1987 in New York, where she once searched for Hesse’s out-of-print writings to share with her friends for their book club. The book inspired her, Cooper said, because it spoke about Hesse’s personal journey as an artist. Now Cooper inspired her own audience with stories of what brought her to the present and what she enjoyed in others’ art.