Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to announce How the World Becomes World, Ethan Cook’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. On view at our SoHo location from January 12 – February 24, 2024, How the World Becomes World features new canvas works and works of handmade paper.
Created on a four-harness loom, Cook’s paintings are studies of abstraction and material: color, form, texture, space, and environment are the fundamental elements at play throughout his work. How the World Becomes World expands upon the 2023 exhibition Entities, where, for the first time, the artist began incorporating other materials such as copper into his handwoven compositions. The new works push this motif even further, as each of the works feature horizontal strips of reflective copper radiating across the textile like horizon lines. “If the painting is a sentence,” Cook writes, “the copper zip is a semicolon; I love semicolons.” Opposing the period, the semicolon expresses a will to go on, to link where others might stop. Likewise, the works on view are ecosystems of conjoined, but disparate parts.
The canvases on view comprise Cook’s “Nat-Geo” series, titled after Natural Geometry, a kind of casual, soft-edge geometry. In this vein, the exhibition offers viewers a new perceptual experience caught between the bodily, the landscape, and the abstract-geometric. While creating the works, Cook undergoes a cyclical process of stretching and unstretching the textile. Previously, Cook embraced idiosyncracies occurring during the sewing and stretching process – an acceptance of chance that is now foregone for more painterly exactitude. This stretching and unstretching process creates a distinct foreground-background relationship. Such depth is emphasized by Cook’s color palette, now filled with starkly contrasting light and dark shades. Near black forms interact with their lighter fabric and reflective copper counterparts, evoking opposing states like light and darkness, life and death. Such immediate visual impact contributes to a sense of the works’ readiness-to-hand—rather than hanging inertly, they wrap us in an emotional world.
In the works of paper, Cook presents aqueous abstractions made of paper pulp mixed with pigment. Produced quickly and freely – a process diverging from the more laborious and rigorous canvas work – the papers are suggestive and playful. Like his woven works, the background is interchangeable with the marks and gestures throughout the composition.
How the World Becomes World derives from phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay “Eye and Mind,” a foundational text for the conceptual underpinnings of Cook’s recent work. For Merleau-Ponty and Cook, the self is shaped by one’s embodied perception of the outside world. The world becomes world, then, as it is mediated through our embodied experiences. Rather than comprising objective, monolithic realities, our understanding of self and world are always informed by our ongoing experiences inhabiting them. The forms in Cook’s works are both embodied and bodily, the product of a heightened attunement to the body in space.
Citing Bridget Riley, Cook says “a painting should first and foremost be a feast for the eyes. It should bring you in visually, and you should feel it with your body. Also a follower of Merleau-Ponty, she believes the body is the main conduit for understanding the world, not the eye or the mind.” Likewise, How the World Becomes World creates an experience of emotional immediacy, one that brings viewers new perceptual insights.
Ethan Cook (b. 1983, Texas; lives and works in New York, NY) has had solo shows at Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles and Marfa; Half Gallery, New York; Andersen’s Contemporary, Copenhagen; Galerie Philipp Zollinger, Zurich; T293, Rome; Loyal Gallery, Stockholm; Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles; Noire Chapel, Torino; Bill Brady, Miami; Sunday-S Gallery, Copenhagen; American Contemporary, New York; Galerie Jeanroch Dard, Paris; Rod Barton, London; Patrick de Brock Gallery, Knokke; and Gana Art Hannam, Seoul. His work has been covered in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Brooklyn Rail, Interview Magazine, Architectural Digest, among other publications.