James Cooper

James Cooper

Solvang, CA, United States

About James Cooper

"A similar sense of calm informs James Cooper's three renderings of distant horizons. They manage to recall Hiroshi Sugimoto seascapes and color-field painting both."
Mark Feeney, arts writer, reviewer, and editor, Boston Globe

"In his unmanipulated, sweeping American landscapes - captured with transparency film - James Cooper's alluring compositions feature simple shapes and geometries with minimal detail, elevating his work into elegant abstract imagery."
Elin Spring, photography writer, What Will You Remember?

"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'."


Using just a camera and film, what kind of image can be made?


The photographic image should be an accurate record of what the camera and film captured. And, an image made with film has a certain feel to it. The image should be an experience - it should shift you. Maybe make you smile. 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?


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


"It may be assumed that the achievements within a particular medium are the more satisfying aesthetically if they build from the specific properties of the medium."
Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film

Exhibitions

Selected Exhibitions

SE Center for Photography, juried group exhibition, juried by Leslie-Claire Spillman, Director of the Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, LA, 2020.

International Color Awards, 13th Annual International competition, international juried group exhibition, various jurors, Fine Art Nominee. 2020.

FOCUS Photo L.A. Summer 2019 exhibition, juried group exhibition, juried by Deborah Klochko, Executive Director & Chief Curator, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA, W.M. Hunt, Collector, Curator & Consultant, and Bryant Toth, Director, TOTH Gallery, New York, NY, 2019.

A Smith Gallery, juried group exhibition, juried by Catherine Couturier, Director of Catherine Couturier Gallery, Houston, TX, 2019.

International Color Awards, 12th Annual International competition, international juried group exhibition, various jurors, Fine Art Nominee. 2019.

Texas Photographic Society International Competition, Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas, TX (2018, touring to the Center for Contemporary Arts, Abilene, TX, 2018 and the Options Gallery at Odessa College, Odessa, TX, 2019) international juried group exhibition, juried by Kate Breakey, photographer.

The 12th Pollux Awards, international juried group exhibition, juried by Philip Brookman, Consulting Curator of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Series winner of the Fine Art Landscape and Seascape category: Agriculture Series - Agricultural Fields. 2018.

The Print Center, international mixed media juried group exhibition, juried by Kelly Baum, the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, and Jennifer Farrell, Associate Curator, Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 2017.

Photographic Resource Center, juried group exhibition, juried by Sarah Kennel, The Bryne Family Curator of Photography, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, 2017.

The 10th Pollux Awards, international juried group exhibition, various jurors, Fine Art Finalist: Agriculture Series. 2017.

Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, mixed media juried group exhibition, juried by Susan Snyder, Gallery Director, Caldwell Snyder Gallery, San Francisco, CA 2016.

Center for Photographic Art, international juried group exhibition, juried by Linde B. Lehtinen, PhD., Assistant Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA, 2016.

Gallery 110, mixed media juried group exhibition, juried by Melissa Feldman, independent curator and faculty at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, the California College of Art, the San Francisco Art Institute and Goldsmith’s College in London, Seattle, WA, as juror. Juror award. 2016.

International Color Awards, 9th Annual competition, international juried group exhibition, various jurors, Nominee. 2016.

FotoFilmic’16 International Juried Film Photography Competition, international juried group exhibition, various jurors, Shortlist. 2016.

Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3) Annual competition, international juried group exhibition, various jurors. Honorable mention: Agriculture Series. 2015.

Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, mixed media juried group exhibition, juried by Nancy Meyer, Curatorial Assistant of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art, CA, 2015.

The Photo Review, juried group exhibition, juried by Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator of Photography, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, 2014.

The Art of Photography Show, juried group exhibition, juried by Julia Dolan, The Minor White Curator of Photography, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, 2013.

Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3), international juried group exhibition, various jurors. Honorable mentions: Vineyard Tree and Soldiers Per Gallon. 2010.

"Colors of Life", Capital One Corporate Gallery, Richmond VA (2009, touring to ArtSpace, Richmond, VA, and Kkien Atelier, Milan, Italy 2009) international juried group exhibition, various jurors. Honorable mention: Soldiers Per Gallon.