STORIES

David Cooley's Art Is an Acid-Tripper's Paradise

By David Jenison on March 27, 2017

The Dark Side of the Moon came out five years before David Cooley was born, yet the psychedelic nature of his art makes one think his parents raised him on Pink Floyd. Cooley, who works with the Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, creates masterful mixed-media art that often involves geometric patterns and multi-dimensional layering. His next show opens April 15 at the Black Book Gallery in Denver (so smoke 'em if you got 'em), and he will finish the year with a show at Thinkspace London. As Cooley gears up for his next show, PRØHBTD spoke with him about resin, acid trips and ancient fabrics. 

You work with a lot of different materials like acrylic, spray paint, resin and pens. How does using so many different elements ideally elevate the visual dynamics in the finished product? 

Nowadays I mostly only use acrylic and resin on wood. I haven't used spray paint, pens or fabrics in a couple of years now. I really like working on resin because I think it gives a sense of depth and feeling that the paint is floating in mid air. 

Some of your pieces included antique fabric. Where did you typically source these fabrics? 

I haven't used fabric in my pieces for a while now, but I've been thinking about incorporating them back into my work, but we'll see if that actually happens. I never really know what direction my work will go in. I used to get a lot of the vintage fabrics from eBay. I used to spend hours just searching for them. 

Is there a specific culture that produces fabric patterns you like most? 

Not really. I like so many different aesthetics from all kinds of  different cultures I couldn't pick just one. 

You work a lot on wood panels. What aesthetic elements about the texture and look of paint-on-wood contribute to the look and feel you’re striving to capture?

I like to work on wood panels mostly because it's easier to resin them and I don't have to worry about cutting through them with an X-Acto knife like I would on canvas. I don't really use the wood panels for any aesthetic reason. 

What visual aesthetics do you see as inherent in geometric patterns?

I think our minds are kind of geared to spot patterns and to be fooled by optical illusions of depth and contour, and geometric shapes tend to enable artists to portray that. Plus, it's just fun! 

You’ve said the pools featured in some of your pieces represent overcoming fear and anxiety. In what way has artwork helped you deal with anxiety you might have?

I think I work a lot of things out that might be bothering me while painting. It can be very meditative at times. 

When you create a piece, do you typically envision a larger narrative surrounding the individual moment captured in the art? If yes, are there keys to understanding the narratives?  

My work used to have more of an overarching narrative, but not so much anymore. For the last couple of years I've been practicing not thinking too much about what I'm going to do with each piece and not have any preconceived idea, just let them take shape naturally. It's a lot more fun for me that way. I never really know how they're going to turn out, and I get some pleasant surprises that way. 

Many of your pieces seem like their visual impact could go to the next level if seen while taking psychedelics. Is there any intent there?

Kind of, but not necessarily. I've always been a fan a psychedelic art, and I've had my fair share of experiences with psychedelics, but I hope sober people can enjoy them just the same. But they're definitely fun to look at while tripping!

Has anyone come to a show and talked to you about your art while clearly tripping on shrooms or acid?

I've shown work at a couple music festivals years ago, so I'm sure it's happened, but honestly I can't really think of a time when that's happened at a show. One time I was in a bar, and this guy was clearly tripping pretty hard on acid. While we were talking, the topic of art came up so I showed some photos of my work on my phone. He was genuinely super excited about my work, and he just kept hugging and thanking me. It actually felt pretty good to share my work with someone in that state and have them react like that. 

What are your personal thoughts on psychedelics or cannabis?

I've always been fascinated with altered states and have learned a lot about myself and others. I feel like I'm a better person for having had those experiences. They've been very therapeutic at times, although some experiences have been difficult, but none have been bad. 

David Jenison (david@prohbtd.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.

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