Mike Cockrill: Awakening

September 8 – October 22, 2011


For its inaugural show, Kent Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings and drawings by the New York artist Mike Cockrill. Concurrent with the exhibition we will release a new publication documenting Cockrill's oeuvre over this past decade with an illuminating and insightful text by Anthony Haden-Guest. 

On the face of it what Mike Cockrill is doing here is upright and straight-forward, Boy Scoutish even, which is not a bad metaphor, considering that he was himself a keen Boy Scout during those years when he was unknowingly accumulating the material that would be the core of much of his mature work. You could say that this project is simply about borrowing. But it's not that simple. Artists do generally feel free to rifle the image banks of art and popular culture for usable stuff but if their takings have been fairly obscure and/or they have very much made an image their own, they seldom feel it necessary to bring the originals to our attention. Yet here is Cockrill pointing out, as painstakingly as the teacher in one of his cherished school primers – these are my sources and this is what I have done with them.

Enduring issues in Cockrill's work have developed over several decades and have been carried through several bodies of distinct work. Though formally trained in classical European painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Cockrill as a student was deeply drawn to the art of Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper — icons of American narrative painting. His early exhibitions in the East Village and his first solo show at Semaphore Gallery in Soho (1985), established Cockrill as a forerunner of the current interest in nostalgic figuration. Cockrill balances the sacred and profane as well as issues of sex, politics, and the suburban family.