James Chronister, “Bitterroot” and Alika Cooper, “Glass” at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

by Admin on 03/04/2014

James Chronister and Alika Cooper fill the rooms of Eleanor Harwood Gallery this month with two solo exhibitions, wherein both artists appropriate imagery of popular culture and art history in their art practice to explore unique ideas and themes, as well as examining why they are so uniquely powerful. Cooper’s work toys with abstraction and medium while deconstructing the image’s gaze and audience, while Chronister’s intricately detailed and personal paintings invite audiences into his creative process and personal experiences to recall into the past while boldly looking forward to the future of his work. Each, however, provides a significant opportunity to look again, and in a different way at visual culture audiences may have never thought to reconsider.

Created with a high degree of technical skill within a laborious, exacting process utilizing halftone printing, San Francisco-based artist James Chronister’s intricately detailed photorealistic paintings depict in a monochromatic palette the woodland landscapes of his native rural Montana and group portraits of iconic Rock n’ Roll bands recalled from memory that shaped his youth. “Bitterroot,” Chronister’s third solo show at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, takes it name from a plant native to Montana, the artist’s home state, and alludes toward the his intention of the show to act as a final look to his foundational creative influences and style for which he is perhaps best known before a major shift of focus and a new experimental phase. Chronister shares his personal experiences and influences with his audience using seemingly disparate subject matters of landscapes and portraiture, eliciting both the awestruck reactions toward legendary pop icons and silent reverence in the timeless sublimity of nature. The atmosphere created within the gallery space, interpreting universal themes within a maturation narrative, evokes Utopian idealism and a youthful, exuberant creative enthusiasm.

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James Chronister, “Bitterroot” at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

Like Chronister, Alika Cooper appropriates popular imagery, but does so by creating stunning gray fabric collages using an innovative layering technique that oscillates between abstraction and figuration. In “Glass,” her new series of paintings source subject matter from well-known pictures of women from a wide array of artists ranging from American fashion photographer Irving Penn to German-born avant-garde photographer Ellen Auerbach to address the histories of painting and photography mediums, particularly how the female body has been portrayed and applied to explore larger ideas and themes. Cooper works as both photographer, adjusting images through light and contrast, and as painter, working with perspective and scale, analyzing archetypal gender roles and representations or expectations of the feminine in the history of art in the Western world. The fabric, however, provides an important foil almost as if acting like a barrier to prevent a complete immersion, which allows a deeper reading. It injects feminine domestic motifs, and its sharp contrast with the sexualized imagery provides an intriguing point for audiences to explore. Deconstructing these images and symbols through collage and monotone found fabric medium in grayscale, Cooper’s artworks ask important questions of perception and the gaze.

James Chronister, “Bitterroot” and Alika Cooper, “Glass” will be at Eleanor Harwood Gallery, 1295 Alabama St. through March 29

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Alika Cooper, “Glass” at Eleanor Harwood Gallery