Even if you don’t know who mononymous artist Coop is, you know his work. During the 1990s, his art graced album covers by such disparate artists as the Reverend Horton Heat, Lords of Acid and even Nirvana. You might know him from his zaftig devil girls or his grinning, cigar-smoking devil man.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Coop will show his work in a new light at Coagula Curatorial in Chinatown. His “Works on Paper” exhibition, opening that night, showcases some of his most famous works in their rawest forms.
“It’s all the way from preliminary sketches to finished drawings,” says Coop. He and Mat Gleason, owner of the gallery, are friends and discussed a showing together for some time. “When we were talking about it, I realized I had all these drawings from the beginning of my professional career that no one had ever seen.”
“Works on Paper” displays the unseen pieces in an unconventional manner. “Most of the shows I’ve done are traditional gallery shows,” says Coop. “This is the opposite of that. This is more like visiting my studio.” Most of the work isn’t even framed, but rather tacked right to the wall.
He stresses that this isn’t an attempt at making an artistic statement. “My desire was actually pretty narcissistic. I just wanted to do something I hadn’t done before. I also wanted to see how it looked, which is why artists do whatever they do.”
Still, it’s hard to ignore that, even if he didn’t intend it at first, there is an artistic statement being made. “It seemed more punk to me to just go into a gallery and pin them to the walls,” says Coop. “Don’t treat the individual pieces as such precious objects. The exhibit is the object.”
Coop believes the end result will be somewhat overwhelming. “I want it to be a show where you have to come back a couple of times just to see everything.” He cites professional skateboarder turned artist Ed Templeton and graffiti artist/painter Barry McGee as influencing this decision.
Considering that Coagula is more associated with what Coop calls the “blue chip” art world of New York City, it's an interesting choice of venue. Decades after the genesis of lowbrow art, it remains a world apart, often not recognized as fine art by the “blue chip” crowd. But Coop wants to bring some of that crowd into his world.
“People that are familiar with my work are going to see more of the process. People that are unfamiliar are going to see some nice drawings, I hope.”
He welcomes this more intimate way of showing his work. “People come visit my studio and it’s a little more casual,” he says. “They’ll see stuff that’s not quite finished and I’ll let people open my flat files and dig through old stuff.”
Visitors to Coagula will see an artist growing up. “The earliest thing in the show is from when I was 19,” he says.
Coop's “Works on Paper: 1987-2015” runs through April 11 at Coagula Curatorial in Chinatown. Opening reception this Saturday, Feb. 28, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.