15 Sep. – 14 Oct. 2023
Opening: September 15, 6 – 9 pm
Future Gallery is proud to present warble a solo exhibition of new works by LA-based artist Sophronia Cook. Her haunting compositions are the result of her metabolic work process. For this exhibition, Cook has recycled the forms of her previous body of work Faucets, a series of resin cast walk sculptures, of which Cook has created charcoal rubbings on raw canvas, these graphical overlays are the genesis of her new body of large-scale partially abstract paintings.
A warble erupts, but this is no ordinary birdsong. If you listen closely, you can hear Sophronia Cook cawing in her own dialect, kindred to a crow perched at a distance, one that observes and times traffic light intervals and passing cars in order to expertly coordinate a walnut drop, a tire crunch, and its successful retrieval. Or perhaps like one that is inching closer to a face that has over time become familiar, trusted, or even befriended through the ongoing exchange of small shiny gifts for peanuts. In 1865, Lewis Carroll famously asked “Why is a raven like a writing desk?,” inspiring an onslaught of potent answers we still squabble over to date, but today, we might instead ask “Why is Sophronia Cook like a crow?”
Those who have researched or have simply kept the company of crows know that they can come to recognise faces, even discern between languages, and in that same vein, can hold grudges that they pass down through generations. We see a similar transference of knowledge in this new body of paintings, as they hold on to the imprint of Cook’s earlier large scale resin work, taking their forms from rubbings of the sculptures Cook made onto the canvases. These rubbings, once only skeletal structures, have been nurtured and nourished like fresh hatchlings, and have undoubtedly, like language, evolved to take up space, fill the room and reverberate. While crows use a wide range of vocalizations, such as caws, rattles, clicks, patterns, and coos, to stay in constant contact with one another, Cook has also established her own vernacular through a consistent pursuit and exploration of foraged, found, repurposed and reimagined textures, colors, shapes, forms and techniques, always seeming to pull for them from various chests of drawers. She invites us in, and the world around her functions as a key; her childhood growing up on a farm, her diaries, her fascination with objects, the sunlight she bathes each piece in outside of her studio: it’s all there. It is through such a persistent repetition of forms that one can come to notice the subtle differences in every work on view: each like its own dance, choreographed for music that hums softly, anywhere but here, but is still viscerally felt. In the same way that scientists are now training crows to recycle, no matter what media she is working in, Cook’s material interests remain in a constant state of flux and eternal return.
In Japan, crows have caused city-wide black-outs with their colorful wire hanger nests constructed atop power line perches. And so here too we are forcibly stopped in our tracks; these paintings require pause and consideration, a moment of trepidation, despite knowing that the electricity will flow through us if our own two claws are perched upon the wire. Through both a thoughtful and spontaneous combination of the materials and surfaces Cook has collected or created throughout her travels and personal life, she manages to weave a non-linear, complex, multi-layered story, one that expands like a nest. Each piece is singular, yet expounds on the tactile vocabulary of its neighbor, the same way crows remain in constant communication through complex language systems, each with their own individual call, yet always belonging to part of a larger collective. New Caledonian crows are especially known for their ingenuity; as one of only a handful of mammals, let alone birds, to fashion compound and complex tools—this skill alone establishes them as one of the most intelligent species next to humans. We have only recently started observing crows seriously, but it’s important to know that they have observed us for much longer, and are without doubt, the wiser.
Through recent studies, we have learned that corvids can not only create and fashion tools, but they keep favorites, too. Similarly, motifs and materials reappear time and time again in Cooks’ works through a collapse of the material and temporal, making for a reward worthy of any delay. Take for example the ‘X,’ an outline originally based on the shape of a porcelain sink faucet handle which Cook magnified into a mold for a resin pour using dryer duct tubing as boundaries, and which continues to mark the spot, one to both return to and to set forth from, but remains here unseen. This chalky, fast graphic, as if of a body outlined on the pavement, remains captured in the moment it turned in on itself for an embrace. We’ve also learned that crows are highly social, known to mate for life, and they have been observed playing with and conversing with other species, able to recount and recall their findings to one another just by listening to one another’s warbles.
Text by: Vanessa Kowalski
Sophronia Cook (1992* Sanger, California) lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds a BFA from Hampshire College and a MFA in sculpture and MA in history and theory of contemporary art from San Francisco Art Institute. Exhibitions include SPY Projects, Et Al Gallery, Embark Gallery, SomArts, Real Time Gallery, and Fort Mason Center For the Arts.