Throughout his decades-long career, Thomas Joshua Cooper has made water the focal point of his photographs. Until July 28, nearly 50 of Cooper’s images made along the Eastern seaboard are on view at the Parrish Art Museum. Thomas Joshua Cooper: Refuge is the artist’s first solo show in an American museum.
Anchored by 21 photographs Cooper made on the East End of Long Island, Refuge also includes images made beside the Hudson River and along the coastal and inland waterways of Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. Seen together, the works explore Cooper’s notions of place, immigration, settlement and shelter.
“For Cooper, the relationship between history and ecology—from the Hudson River’s fresh water arterial to Long Island’s diverse waterways—holds great personal significance as a visual and emotional continuum of his sense of place in the world,” notes Parrish Director and exhibition curator Terrie Sultan. “These places, divergent in topography and habitat, share specific importance to both Native Americans and successive waves of immigrants. Each has been a significant socio-economic driver for trade, manufacture, and shipping.”
Inspired by the tradition of turn of the 20th century landscape photographers such as Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins and Edward Weston, Cooper is a self-described “expeditionary artist” whose approach rests between exploration and picture-making. Since 1968, Cooper has strictly worked with a 19th century large-format camera (the 1898 AGFA field camera).
Although Cooper has made pictures from the Arctic to South America, he had never been to Long Island. After becoming the first recipient of the Lannan Visual Arts Award, Cooper was invited by the Parrish to the East End for a research and image-making trip in 2016. Over the course of 10 days, Cooper traversed Shelter Island and the North and South Forks, immersing himself in the region’s rich environment, history, and culture from Native Americans to Dutch and English settlers to the artist community that originated in the late 1800s and thrives today.
Thomas Joshua Cooper: Refuge
Parrish Art Museum
Water Mill, NY
Through July 28, 2019