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"Viewing America" Through The Work Of Robert Cottingham

Photo: courtesy of the artist

“Candy,” by Robert Cottingham, 1984, pochoir; image size 20 5/8 by 20 5/8 inches (paper size, 26 by 25 5/8 inches).

CANTON — The Annual Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Invitational Exhibition at the Gallery on the Green will offer an exhibition of prints by the renowned American artist Robert Cottingham. Selected from the personal collection of the artist, a longtime Newtown resident, the collection on view will include lithographs, woodcuts, and etchings, and display many of the best-known themes and images from Mr Cottingham’s exploration of urban and industrial America.

“Viewing America — Robert Cottingham: Lithographs, Woodcuts, and Etchings” will be on view at The Gallery on the Green in Canton, April 26 through May 26. Mr Cottingham will offer an artist’s talk on Saturday, April 27, at 5 pm. An opening reception will follow, from 6 to 9 pm.

Co-curators Walter Kendra, professor emeritus of art at Central Connecticut State University, and John Willis, professor of printmaking at Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, have worked closely with the artist in choosing works which display both the breadth of techniques and subjects that have occupied Mr Cottingham during his extensive career.

On a recent visit to the artist’s studio, Mr Kendra and Mr Willis pored through a multitude of prints before making a final selection. Even such details as sizes and color patterns gave the curators crucial information, helping to ensure that the selected works capture the best sampling of Cottingham’s printmaking output.

 “The paintings usually preceded the prints but not always,” Mr Cottingham said. “There are very few prints which exist without a companion painting.”

The artist, who maintains a vast number of photographs which he has taken throughout America, can call up images to fit within a series such as the alphabet, numbers, or signs.

“Every photograph is special and relates to a specific time and place that I can still recall,” Mr Cottingham said, as if reminiscing.

Although Robert Cottingham has long been called an American Photorealist pioneer, he dismisses such labels. It is true that he works from photographs, he says, but uses them as if they were his sketchbook. The reality of the photograph is altered, sometimes minimally, whether in color hue, cropping, or the emphasizing or lessening of shadow and light.

When asked  about these alterations, Cottingham said “this is my reality.” As if to enhance his own personal realism, Mr Cottingham also prefers to soften the hard edged images depicted in his photographs when translating them to prints and paintings. The textures of the printed or painted surface is also of paramount importance to the artist, and allows him to experiment with various techniques. 

Connecticut’s oldest existing artists’ guild, The Gallery on The Green is at 5 Canton Green Road in Canton. Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday from 1 to 5 pm and by special appointment. For further information visit www.GalleryOnTheGreen.org.

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