Although he never fully identified himself as such, Robert Cottingham is considered to be one of the most significant American Photorealist painters. Known for his depictions of urban Americana, Cottingham paints images of commercial signage, storefront marquees, railroad boxcars, typeface and mechanical components. Citing childhood trips to Times Square as his source of affection for his subject matter, Cottingham is interested in the intersection of art and commerce by way of sign and its psychological implications. In this vein, he integrates cropping, enlarging and subtle tones of exaggeration to isolate instances of innuendo, implementing his experience as an advertising art director.
In 1964, Cottingham moved to Los Angeles where he was confronted an unfamiliar landscape. Attracted to the disparity between the glamour of Hollywood and languishing state of downtown L.A., Cottingham sought to portray the city’s aging commercial monuments alongside its kitschy atmosphere and Californian sunlight. It was at this time that Cottingham left advertising to focus more on his painting career. Photographs became the reference point from which he built his paintings, starting first with a gridded black and white drawing. Although accuracy according to his source was important, Cottingham was not intent on simply making painted translations of photographic material. Instead, he was interested in observing and presenting the urban American vernacular and the city’s commercial sprawl and for these reasons Cottingham regularly aligned himself with the principles of Pop Art.
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Tate Gallery, London, England
Utrecht Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands
Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY