New York

Vicki Teague-Cooper

Siegeltuch Gallery

In her recent solo show, her first in New York, Vicki Teague-Cooper demonstrates a clear-cut talent for symbolic expression. The artist, who is formerly from Texas, can stir the soul with her haunting vision. Taking a traditional pictorial format, that of the figure in landscape, she has reinvested it with emblematic meaning in the group of new oil paintings and recent charcoal-and-pastel drawings that were shown here.

Each work represents a singular confrontation with the unknown. In the painting Threshold, 1987, a naked figure of androgynous appearance is at the edge of a huge gaping hole in a dark and barren landscape. The tiny figure, who turns up in almost every composition, is holding a flaming torch here. Is she/he at the lip of a volcano, or perhaps about to fall into a bottomless hole? Or will the figure fall victim to some unseen malevolent force? The naked figure’s vulnerability is emphasized by its smallness in relation to the landscape, and the sense of danger is intensified by the curiously raked slope, a dynamic structure implying the forces of movement and change. The landscape itself, with its gleaming, heavily shadowed, bluish surface and the rhythmic patterns of the terrain, appears to be curiously alive, a vital, organic receptacle of mysteries.

The subject of the painting Guardian, 1987, is also man’s relationship to the unknown, to the secrets of nature, but a different aspect of it. Here the figure, again androgynous and naked, stands slightly crouched facing a red conic form in a blue field. Except for the central area occupied by the figure and the cone, the field is bathed in darkness. Does the title of the painting refer to the figure or the cone? Probably the cone, given its prominence in terms of scale and color. Compared to the figure it is a looming tower, a monumental symbol of power. And what does the figure signify? The partially bent-over posture with which he or she confronts the cone might suggest worship or subservience, but it also suggests our species’ never-ending curiosity when faced with anything new or different—our overwhelming desire for knowledge.

Ronny Cohen