LOS ANGELES, CA.- Kevin Cooley is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with elemental forces of nature to question systems of knowledge as they relate to our perceptions and experience of everyday life. Using photography, video, and installation, he creates frameworks though which to observe experimental and performative gestures to decipher our complex, evolving relationships to nature, to technology, and ultimately to each other.
Still Burning centers on work created before, during, and after the recent La Tuna Canyon Fire that nearly destroyed his house, studio, and entire photographic archive. As both personal catharsis and as continuation of an ongoing exploration of the physical and symbolic properties of fire, motivated by the 2016 election, this show is both his most personal, and political, to date.
The exhibition consists of photographs, video, and a Twitter-based project which collectively reference political smokescreens, environmental degradation, and the regeneration that hopefully follows any tragedy. Some of the conflagration in the photographs is intentional and under his control thick clouds of colored smoke that obscure the landscape, or appear to consume natural beauty, such as wildflower super blooms. Exhaust clouds from the Space X Falcon 9 launch present a larger example of human control of fire. While beautiful to witness, the environmental impact of the commercialization of space travel, and other contributions to anthropogenic climate change, are huge. These instances of controlled burning appear alongside imagery from wildfires as they blaze completely out of control, including the Thomas Fire, the Lone Pine Fire, and the La Tuna Fire as it came within yards of consuming everything he owned. In the aftermath, an exploration of the burn zone directly behind his home revealed a secret cache of half-burnt pornographic magazine pages scattered across the freshly scorched earth, and more recently, a rejuvenating chaparral ecosystem, which only renews itself through fire. Life always endures, adapts, and continues.
Two video-based projects focus on how there is still hope on the horizon in reference to the current state of our democracy and the health of the planet. These Colors, a three-channel video, feature red, white and blue smoke columns billowing into the air - an homage to the rapidly disappearing Obama era environmental regulations. A Clear Day, a live-video feed of an archetypal Los Angeles view, as seen from the roof of the gallery, recedes into cloudy haze whenever the hashtag #climateaction appears on twitter.