Martha Cooper and Elle and a Fire “Unextinguished”

Two women, two distinct generations. The same fight for recognition, let alone to determine the direction and manner of discourse.

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Martha Cooper in the 1970s newspaper world found herself as the only woman photographer in a huge room full of men at the New York Post – and she was often pushed into doing “weather” related or “soft journalism” photographs because only men could be presumed to handle the important hard news like politics and crime.  Luckily for us, she didn’t accept those limitations and blasted her own path into the streets and shot what she wanted – but she had to fight for it.

In 2014 a certain kind of man still has a hard time finding space for the women to be in the game, so Elle gets hit with the vitriol often out on the street from some of the graff and Street Art dudes. Sometimes its just the banter of a beef-loving competitive spirit. Other times it takes on the undertones of gender related models of patriarchy.

Sorry Judy Chicago, the work isn’t done yet; that “feminist artist” who coined the term in the 1970s celebrates her own 75th birthday tonight in Prospect Park by spraying her pyrotechnics across the sky, but she also is under no illusion that women have reached parity in the art world, or almost any other.

Even the most fundamental expectation of mutual respect on the New York streets cannot be assumed as harassment by men is still prevalent. Obviously if women were respected on the street we wouldn’t see Tatyana Fazilazadeh creating her postering campaign with New York women called “Stop Telling Women to Smile”.

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. Elle made these dresses from printed photos of Martha Cooper’s work. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

That’s a long intro – and a sad one to have to write but the context somehow gives more power to the dual show by Cooper and Elle tonight. A combining of their skills, “Unextinguished” unites a flame of a mutual determination to take over a space and to define it.

Who knew that a  Boomer and a Millenial would enjoin in the epic battle to extinguish the bullshit and make room for experimenting with new ideas while accommodating the old ones?  For the viewers tonight it’s a juxtaposition of styles that merges into a collaboration of spirit.

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We thought this had to do with a sense of history, through different generations. My pictures are all from 1978, so we are using some old school pictures but re-invigorating them with some new school techniques – like splattering them with a fire extinguisher with a sort of abandon,” says Cooper as she scans the gallery of plastered blown-up images she took thirty five years ago now newly splashed with color.

The view of her shots shown this way is an adjustment for Cooper’s eye too, but one she’s willing to go with for the spirit of collaboration.

“I wouldn’t want to see it every day –  but in the context of this rough-and-ready kind of gallery, I think its kind of cool.”

Here are some shots of the show in preparation.

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Elle (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Martha Cooper (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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A completely extinguished extinguisher outside of the Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” Installation in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Martha Cooper and Elle “Unextinguished” opens today at Mecka Gallery. Click HERE for more details.

Check out this cool video interview just released on AnimalNY.

 

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