Work of the Week – July 23, 2014
Robert Cottingham · C&O, 1989, Lithograph, Color, 21.50 x 29.38 inches
By Michelle Alwine
Robert Cottingham was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. Cottingham is known for his work in developing photorealism with his works focusing around the Americana genre. From 1955-1958, Robert served in the U.S. Army in Orléans, France. Upon his return to the States, he studied at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn from 1959-1963 where he received his BFA. After studying at the Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Cottingham began his career in Los Angeles.
Working from his office, the scenery outside his window would be some of Cottingham’s first easel paintings. Although his paintings seem to be the epitome of photorealistic art, he does not agree with this label of his works. According to Cottingham, his paintings branch from his photography and are an expansion of the realistic qualities of the photographs. Therefore, his paintings are not simply replicas of his photography.
Cottingham’s work has been showcased and is held in collections in museums all over the United States. His work has contributed to exhibits of realism, American art, railroad imagery, hyper-realism, photorealism and printmaking. He is also working with images from machine parts, typewriters and cameras which he calls “components.” In 1998, his print work was displayed as an exhibition in the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C..
In his work C&O, Cottingham displays his talent for portraying light in his work. Although Cottingham disputes that his work is mainly comprised of photo realistic images, this piece shows his ability to develop an expansion of a photograph into his own work of art. The shadows in C&O bring the work to life and exaggerate the blemishes of every day wear and tear on the surface of this industrial image.