As part of our ongoing relationship with the Boston-based Big Red & Shiny, today we bring you a review of Mark Cooper’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Cooper was one of four artists of “exceptional promise” shortlisted for the Foster Prize (along with Sarah Bapst, Katarina Burin, and Luther Price), and all four of the nominees had their ICA exhibitions reviewed on Big Red & Shiny’s blog Our Daily Red. This review was written by Stephanie Cardon and originally published on June 5, 2013.
It is curious that Mark Cooper’s work, which is the most visually and spatially boisterous, the most materially lustful (though not the most fetishistic) of the four finalists’, is that which directly references Buddhist cultures, concepts and practices of meditation, contemplation, immateriality and emptiness. The jovial mess named yu yu tangerine isn’t the cast-off of a frenzied unburdening. It is the offspring of a creative process that harnesses visual language from a multiplicity of sources, pulling a commotion of color, line, shape, texture, form into a single space, and leaving it there like some gargantuan feast for our eyes. It feels compulsive and libidinous—devoid of restraint.
Cooper’s exuberant installation More is More colonized Samsøn in 2011 with greater elegance and aplomb than yu yu tangerine. Given that the assembled parts and the context of both presentations are roughly similar, one wonders what lacks in this iteration of the installation. The answer might be: more. Something closer to a cave, a womb, or a fortress of solitude—an accumulation of obstacles that forces the body into a particular navigation of space. But the answer could just as easily be: less. The argument for this approach would be that the individual parts that make up yu yu tangerine are, by and large, stronger than the whole. Because of a lack of visual hierarchy (resulting primarily from a similarity in scale and shape) no part can claim precedence, and therefore each appears to be a translation of the same concept through a succession different materials and forms: a photograph of a hillside paddy equals line drawings on rice paper equals the tiered, meandering sculptures.