[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]
Nigel Cooke’s show at the Goss-Michael Foundation is compelling. In fact, it’s interesting in ways that make it difficult to talk about without sounding like an angsty character in a Woody Allen movie. The art is deeply psychological and freighted with enough anima and animus to sink a flotilla of Jungians in trendy jeans. Country Club is a case in point. It’s gloriously decked out with a beautifully rendered green tree in the foreground and a sinister backdrop of industrial-looking buildings in pink and gray tones behind it. The work is peopled with misshapen characters that are recent upgrades to the Giaciometti figures that remain emblematic of urban alienation. Put simply, Cooke’s work is dismal — but deeply so — and that makes all the difference.
The show exerts a depth charge of inexorable heft that makes it worth getting chummy with its alluvial bottom layers. It’s the stuff that occupies dreams. Plus, Cooke isn’t ashamed to use “Thinkers” and “Thinking” in his titles and books are a trope repeatedly utilized throughout the show. There’s also a bulbous-nosed fellow that pops up in piece after piece. He’s a trickster that negotiates multiple realms and reveals something of the artist’s internal urge to move us from a dismal sensibility to a tongue-in-cheek chuckle. Put simply, Cooke is wickedly cool. His Blu Tack Heart is pared back as a Shaker church and beckons us to sail past the world’s rim. It’s the obverse of the gorgeously blue Pacific. Instead, it’s authoritatively lovely in its grayness.