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Exhibition: Past ThreadApr 22–May 31, 2008


Thread offers Justin Cooper’s first large-scale sculpture/installation, which fills the entirety of Gallery 400 ’s space. The exhibition is bookended by two performances featuring Cooper with Noelle Mason and Ross Moreno. The installation and performances interact intimately with each other, like lovers, as well as ignore each other completely, like lovers. At the same time, several dichotomies are pressed into service: temporality vs. permanence; abstraction vs. personification; audience vs. performer; speech vs. gesture; observed impossibility vs. unseen possibility; low profile vs. high body mass; hard factual accounting vs. ethereal hazy accounting; retention vs. loss; celestial chimes vs. terrestrial drums; object vs. space; cold equations vs. heart-warming pseudoscience; eye-witness account vs. eye-witness account; acting vs. re-acting; realistic expectation vs. idealistic projection; unexplained giant fur-covered paper bag vs. explained giant fur-covered paper bag.

The exhibition consists of two elements, one effable and one ineffable. In order to create what he calls a “three dimensional scribble,” Cooper fills the space with garden hoses run through with rebar armatures and attached end-to-end in one continuous thread. The hoses will remain within the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. Within the mess of hoses, Cooper staged two performances in which two actors improvised a conversation about the state of their romantic relationship, the recent birth of their son, and whether or not they had recently seen a Sasquatch. During the performance, the actors continuously thwarted attempts at documentation – an action that emphasized the temporality of the performance itself, and also paralleled the question asked within the performance of whether what the characters had seen earlier that night was real.

As Gallery 400 Assistant Director Anthony Elms wrote:

“If one is prepared, abstraction, ethereal phenomena, and impossibility are observable everywhere. A shrub becomes Sasquatch, every blur a ghost. Some can ’t see a thing through the thicket and must interpret sounds into images. A rustling becomes a rushing little green man. Cooper ’s work reminds us that interpretations of these types—of which there are many—make clear what is always present in our explanations: projection and causality.”

Thread was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2008 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago

Justin Cooper website


Thread is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Special thanks to the jury that selected the 2008 At the Edge
projects: John Arndt (artist), Monica Haslip (Director of Little Black Pearl), Kerry James Marshall (artist and former University of Illinois at Chicago faculty member), Stephanie Smith (Director and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art), Lorelei Stewart (Director of Gallery 400) and Deborah Stratman (artist and University of Illinois at Chicago faculty member).