One of the savviest painters working today, British artist Nigel Cooke has earned a considerable reputation—and a waiting list of high-profile collectors—by painting nature while conversely considering the nature of painting itself. Mixing gestural abstraction with a cast of cartoonish oddballs, Cooke constructs a garden of delights, with ten new paintings spread over three rooms. Known as both an adventurous practitioner and a knowledgeable champion of painting, Cooke continuously finds ways to push the medium toward new possibilities.
Dreaming Head depicts a woman’s noggin sprouting from the ground, while a maelstrom of waves and hair, teeth and toes swirls above her. Lovers with Clown Storm pairs another female head with clownish specters as gigantic brushstokes fill the composition. Spring takes Cooke’s stormy mix of figuration and formalism to a swampy realm, where a waterfall pours from the mouth of a giant, blue-nosed skull, and a strange green-skinned character in sunglasses and a chef’s hat eyes a siren-faced flower from the safety of a race car.
Continuing this anxious vibe, Cooke layers Hawaiian Tropic (The Honeymooners) with eyeballs, blue hot dogs and a vacationing couple. He flanks the massive canvas with portraits of female faces haloed with petals who, much like the viewer, are left to divine the mind of the artist through his turbulent creation.—Paul Laster