Critics’ Picks

Ian Cooper, Screening (Matador), 2015, screen printed and hand-dyed cotton jersey, felt, vinyl, powder-coated steel and aluminum, painted lumber, poplar dowel, felt, bias tape, thread, PVC with hardware, 85 1/2 x 54 x 20".

East Hampton

Ian Cooper

Halsey McKay Gallery | East Hampton
79 Newtown Lane
October 3–November 15

Think about the backdrop against which the tapioca stickiness of childhood plays itself out: a middle-school classroom of plasticized wood; a gymnastics mat made of hypoallergenic vinyl; stain-resistant carpeting in tidy little squares of gray and pink. These institutional surfaces clash with the changes of bodies coming into their own—hair and sweat and semen and blood can easily be wiped away with a little Windex or a damp cloth, oddly sterilizing the messiness of puberty and the visceral weirdness of growing up. Ian Cooper’s sculptures, filtered through the aesthetics of his 1980s childhood, pervert the forms and features of K–12. The five works on display are scrupulously and neurotically made—but their polished lines and shipshape surfaces barely conceal the terrors and tics lurking just beneath.

Timeline (Centrefold), (all works 2015) feels like a cartoon Shroud of Turin. It’s made from three separate sheets of painted birch plywood hinged together, hanging from fleshy pink pegs. A couple of wooden planks cut to resemble bits of yellowed tape are affixed to its bottom two corners at mirrored diagonals. Actual images of Jesus aren’t hiding anywhere, but the subtly rubbed and sanded areas that float upon this piece bloom like sacrificial wounds, gently pulsating from a delicately crucified body. Screening (Matador) depicts a wide-open orifice of indeterminate sex, cut from the middle of a film projection screen of tie-dyed cotton jersey and silk-screened Benday dots. It is bold but ambivalent, sensuous yet sterile—frantic and batty in the way adolescence always is before its final and most interminable decline into adulthood.