New York

Diana Cooper

Diana Cooper’s new show had something for everyone. For that side of you that loves chaotic dispersions, there was installation; for those who prefer the lure of the autonomous object, there was a little painting. Many of the works are grounded in the medium of drawing; others utilize the two-dimensional surface as a kind of launchpad for wildly aggregating networks of pipe cleaners, paper chains, catheters, and tinfoil. The show was genuinely pleasurable to look at, but satisfaction could also be derived from how effortlessly Cooper’s work seems to occupy the space between process and the pictorial.

Executed in ballpoint pen and colored marker on paper or unstretched canvas stapled to the wall, the drawings are composed of patterns of proliferating lines, shapes, and doodles, suggesting themselves variously as topographical maps, computer circuitry diagrams, or architectural plans. But that makes them sound too serious, when in fact there is a tremendous sense of play in these endlessly multiplying forms. Sometimes the drawings are embellished with pieces of felt and transparent plastic tubing (Memory Loss, 1998–99) or brightly colored pom-poms (To Do, 1999). Words might also be incorporated, appearing in lists, as random ephemera, or as part of amusing, self-referential comments. Decipherable in the densely stacked lines of While You Were Out, 1999, for example, is the eponymous block text of a phone-message pad combined with the artist’s handwriting to read, “WHILE YOU WERE OUT, I made this picture and you were out for a very long time.”

Cooper’s larger constructions spill over into the viewer’s space, like The Dispenser, 1999, a mixed-media construction that seems to have generated the paper cubes and transparent blue cylinders that lie scattered on the floor in front of it. The pipe cleaners that make up the undulating red-and-white grid of And I Couldn’t Find You, 1998–99, extend out into space and are anchored to the floor, creating a pictorial effect and then subverting it.

The artist’s works meander and expand incrementally, evoking Yoni Friedman’s “space-grid-frame” renderings. Set a few feet in front of the gallery wall, Safe, 1998–99, constructed mainly from foam-core, allows entry from behind into a narrow space with just enough room for the viewer and a pile of soft white pom-poms. As much as it evokes a personal haven, Safe is too cold and wobbly to provide a lasting sense of refuge. Cooper’s flirtation with architecture and pathos in Safe is representative of her awareness of numerous sources—arte povera, lo-fi aesthetics, Mike Kelley, craft—while also demonstrating that she’s too smart to aggressively latch on to any of them. Driven by the frenetic activity of Cooper’s hand, presenting drawing upon drawing upon drawing, her enterprise is largely about aesthetic pleasure, but it’s also savvy enough to keep everyone interested.

Meghan Dailey