Mille-feuilles pastries, elaborate hair arrangements, eddies and waves across a lake, the tight spheres of tree rings—the curved and twisting sculptures Barbara Cooper has created out of hundreds of layers of wood veneer and books recall these forms and others, too. More than anything, though, they speak to me of geology, of the strata atop which we perch, the rocks and minerals, the compressed plant matter, the mud and sand. Except that, as humans alive in the midwestern United States (the sculptures were displayed in a shuttered solo show at the Krasl Art Center in Michigan), our strata, so to speak, is well enough represented by Cooper’s choice of materials. Trees and information, that’s what we’ve got: the knowledge of trees, the material of cut down trunks, the words printed on so much pulped wood. If that sounds like an old-fashioned take on the stuff of life, it bears noting that Cooper’s materials are all recycled and discarded, the rejects of current cycles of production and consumption. They’re also illegible in the traditional sense; you can’t read the words and you can’t see the grain. Unless, that is, you’re like a geologist, adept at finding meaning in dense layers of supporting materials.
—Lori Waxman 2020-09-10 3:20 PM