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April 26–May 21, 2023

To enter the realm of visual art, to step up to the surface and contents of an artwork, is to step through and into the galaxy of a culture on the whole. Darin Cooper’s activity as an artist reflects a profound and resplendent understanding of this fact—genetically, generatively connected to the languages and movements of the moving image, music, sport, food, design, and onward. Herein Cooper opens up painting as a process of both image- and object-making; a creative practice suffused with personal freedom and style, sound, and spiritual release. Ain't no place like home marks the artist's first solo exhibition.


Born in Newport News, Virginia, Cooper’s work is heavily influenced by Black Southern Culture in specific, where the Church, rap music, family, and the legacies of American slavery are ubiquitous. Working primarily in acrylics, Cooper produces rich signatures of color while using rubbing alcohol to disintegrate parts of the original pigment, creating a circuit of layered jewel tones—what he refers to as a “glaze.” Often this surface is accompanied by a silkscreened image and collaged inkjet prints, which become integrated into the broader wash that continues to accrue around them. Through these gestures Cooper’s work actively contemplates lineage and memory, as well as its erasure, mourning, and celebration. 


Against a golden yellow ground, Grown folk business features a glowing silkscreened stack of Monobloc chairs; a staple in rural America backyards and symbol of Southern cookout culture, as well as the souls who have sat in them. For Cooper, family cookouts were a continuous celebratory routine—whether birthday parties, family reunions, or deaths. “Listening to famous R&B and hip hop songs while my uncles are on the grill cooking BBQ. My aunties around the table drinking and telling stories of loved ones who passed. For us and many other African Americans in the South, this was a place of congregation.” An affectionate proxy for Cooper’s father and uncles, the African figure stands with a toothpick in its mouth and towel as protection and shade from the Southern heat.


With Stairway to Heaven, the connection to family abounds in reference to the presence of religion in the artist’s upbringing, with memory of attending church with his mother and older brother. This luminous stairway also draws biblical reference to Jacob's Ladder—the mythic passage from earth to heaven and representation of ascension to a higher dimension. With musical overtones, the presence of trumpets in this work symbolizes judgment day, also doubling as a reference to one of the first African American spirituals hummed by slaves since they were prohibited from speak while working.


Elsewhere, a work like Inner city blues (Rip Micah) engages dance in correlation with rap music—particularly the globally proliferation of viral dances that ultimately originate start in the South. Dances like “hitting the folks” or the “Nae Nae” were a big part of the artist’s own youth. “After school I would always see my peers doing these dances in the school parking lot while blasting popular rap songs. Growing up in an environment where there was a lot of violence, dancing was a way for kids to escape their situation.” The work’s title also references the iconic song by soul artist Marvin Gaye. Indeed Cooper’s title for this exhibition, Ain’t no place like home, speaks to these various, plentiful, and personal locations within the work and the world.


Darin Cooper (b. 2000) holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York and has exhibited at venues including Bode Projects, Grove Collective, Seville Gallery, and Andrea Festa Fine Art. He was recently a resident artist at The Macedonia Institute.



Photography: Jason Mandella

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