Highlighting the unpredictability and power of nature, Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, presents Kevin Cooley’s (b.1975) latest photographic examination: Still Burning. The highly personal collection of images explores the dual nature of fire, placing forest blazes specifically La Tuna Fire which almost destroyed the photographer’s home, alongside the controllable emissions of spacecraft which are created and confined by man. This stark distinction between natural and artificial critiques society, noting a recent shift in environmental concerns. In a time when the US President denies the existence of global warming, Cooley presents a cautionary look at the West and their attitudes towards nature.
Focusing on the fires which have decimated areas of residential America, Cooley plots a loose chronology, exploring man’s relationship with the elements by showcasing sights from before, during and after the blaze. The artist combines photography and film with social media, noting the continued environmental degradation and exploitation which is contributed to by these new technologies. Exploring the temporality Twitter invites, Clear as Day (2017) transports viewers up onto the gallery roof through a live-feed, virtually viewing an archetypal version of LA. Shrouded in thick clouds, mimicking both the claustrophobia of natural smoke and the artificial smog, both depicts the narrative of the metropolis, whilst the hashtag #ClimateAction removes alters the cloudy covering, adding an interactive element to the work and auctioning the suggestion that the smallest human actions have the biggest effects on the globe.
Beyond the highly cautionary tone of the show, Cooley also signals the positive aspects of fire, investigating themes of rejuvenation and regeneration through aesthetic imprints. Freeway Bouquet (2017) displays a bunch of brightly coloured, wilting flowers pictured on a saturated blue background and surrounded by streaks of vivid light. The piece reminds viewers of the hierarchy within nature, showing that although fire may have the potential to destroy everything in its path; parts of nature can override its power, just as the chaparral ecosystem re-emerges from the embers.
Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, 24 Feb-7 April. Find out more here.
Cooley appeared in Issue 80 of Aesthetica Magazine, see more here.
1. Lone Pine Fire from Still Burning. Courtesy Kevin Cooley.