Ethan Cook: Lobstee
Rod Barton, One Paget Street, London, EC1 7PA
1 November - 7 December 2013
From the Press Release
In keeping with the New York based artist’s practice of reduction and re-composition, the exhibition has been titled lobstee, after a one-word poem by minimalist poet Aram Saroyan. Both the poet and artist narrow their focus down to the most basic elements of their medium and then re-configure them as their artistic production; with Saroyan the alphabet, Cook in this case, canvas and wood.
Comprised solely of two artworks, Untitled (2013) and 100 planks (tongue and groove), the exhibition itself is reductive and acute. In these works, there is a flattening between production, material and concept. For Untitled 2013 (a monumental 90x120in painting) the process begins in the studio using a four-harness floor loom from which Cook creates his woven material, a large-scale piece of cotton canvas. These hand-woven canvas sections are then reconfigured and combined with industrial produced canvas, marking a shift from Cook’s earlier all hand-woven pieces. The work, stretched and framed, then sits as geometric abstraction; through three slight colour shifts of tan white and ivory, one can read each rectilinear material as distinct and relative. The bunching and variances of line on the seams between the hand made and the industrial, and the above mentioned restrictive colour palate allow for a clear articulation of the subtle differences between the two materials. Here one can see the mark of labour, the hand of production.
In 100 planks (tongue and groove) 100 identical flooring slats are presented directly on the gallery’s wood floor as a neatly compiled stack of 10 slats wide by 10 slats high. The slats are pieced together horizontally with the namesake tongue and groove pattern. This integration of a modular uniform material that is able to support and supported by one another (just like the thread that forms the warp and weft in Cook’s woven canvas), is conceptually and aesthetically crucial to Cook’s practice. In effect, both of these works are manifestations of co-dependency. Extended further, a functional wood floor holds the sculpture, as the commercially produced canvas holds the hand-woven; these are distinct gestures of the same idea. In both cases the industrially produced cradles the handmade.
This work makes a definite nod to historical Minimalism, notably Donald Judd and Carl Andre, and their interests in commercially produced objects positioned within art’s context. Similarly Cook is toeing the line between the pragmatic and the poetic. Through an ongoing investigation of process, a re-interpretation of material and a conceptual framework that links these actions, lobstee is formed.