Hollis Cooper: Invirtuality

The paintings and installations of Hollis Cooper are invested in the haptic and the optic construction of space in a way that privileges neither while questioning both. Her compositions act as a recursive loop that joins the digital and the painterly in a series of complex mediations between memory, found materials and innumerable acts of aesthetic transduction. Cooper’s works remind us that ‘the virtual’ is not just a hypothetical construction, but that we encounter the production of virtuality all around us as a series of visual tropes, cultural memes and rhetorical devices. Much like her immersive environments we find ourselves encircled by the digital aesthetics of cinematic seductions, scripted spaces and technologized environs — or what many theorists now refer to as a culture of remediation. By folding different digitized spaces together — spaces from internet chat rooms, videogame backgrounds and various forms of theoretical architecture — Cooper’s work engages in a kind of radical geometricism that points to the instability of ‘the virtual’ as a well defined local. In fact, her painterly installations insist upon a type of shifting presence that is determined by the interplay of the viewing situation as well as the orchestration of technological motifs, nexus effects and (de)constructed systems of representation.

One could even say that Cooper’s hyperbolic vivisections of architectural and computational space show us how the virtual is commiserate with Deleuze’s interpretation of the term —where the virtual is conceived of a series of potentials within the real that are irreducible to the structures that condition their appearance. Rather, Deleuze provided us with a vision of the virtual as a paradigm of compossibilities that unfurl and unfold all around us in anti-systematic, anti-linear and anti-teleological ways. Such a notion of mixed topologies; of visual events taken as so many forking paths; and of the type of dynamicism that issues from the (neo)baroque theatrics found in Cooper’s imagery could all be thought of as allegorical effect of the anti-Cartesian urge — or even as a model of Deleuze’s devout anti-Platonism. In many ways Cooper’s artistic practice could be characterized as a type of cartographic cataloging that takes emergent properties and proliferating mutations as its given subject. 

In her most recent works however, even these pictorial anomalies find themselves displaced by so many generative derivations — giving rise to a spectrographic language that can only be described as Baroqucoco — or as embodying a hybrid disposition toward the use of different motifs and the logic of embellishment. Cooper’s newly extended vocabulary is not so much about the artificiality of architectural systems as it is about capturing the texture and trace of vituality in all of its various incarnations. Such a cacophony of visual paradoxes makes us question how we think about the structuration of space while the phenomenal complexity of her works asks us to activate our perception of the living present in order to map its constructed measures as naturalized artifacts. This is perhaps, what it means to be in-virtuality, or within an aesthetic experience that subtracts from the known what we think we have always already known before.

Bio: Born in 1976 in Jackson, Mississippi, Hollis Cooper grew up in New Orleans and Houston before moving to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and finally California. She received her undergraduate degree with high honors from Princeton University, a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. In 2006, she was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant Award by the CGU Art Department, and in 2007 was selected for the Drawing Center's Viewing Program in NYC. Her work has been featured/reviewed in publications such as New American Paintings, Art Papers, and Alarm Magazine, and has been included in shows in galleries and museums throughout the United States.

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