View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
P07642 Black Girl 1980
Lithograph 10 1/2 × 10 1/2 (266 × 266) on paper 17 1/2 × 17 1/2 (444 ×444), printed and published by Landfall Press, Inc., Chicago
Inscribed ‘Cottingham 1980’b.r. and ‘30/50’; impressed with the publisher's stamp
Purchased at Sotheby's, Los Angeles (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
These three prints [P07641, P07642, P07643] belong to the Landfall Set, a group of 11 etchings and lithographs made at Landfall Press, Inc. between 1973 and 1978 (repr. The Complete Guide to Photo-Realist Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, 1978). Cottingham's subjects are the advertising and neon signs on American shop fronts, an interest which arose out of his previous experience as an advertising executive. Although the images derive from photography, both in their genesis and in the printmaking technique (photolithography in the case of ‘Black Girl’ and ‘Frankfurters’), the works demonstrate that Cottingham's aim is not merely to reproduce a ready-made photograph in order to achieve what would be known in commercial terms as a ‘retouched image’. The artist has stated: ‘I don't care about being realistic. In other words, I don't put in little rust spots or bolts that show. I'm not looking for that kind of realism. I'm just using the subjects as the stepping-off points to compose the painting’ (quoted in Pop Prints, exhibition handlist, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1978). Cottingham's primary concerns are formal. In ‘Frankfurters’, for instance, Cottingham has cropped the image and in so doing emphasises the sharply converging verticals of the shop fascia. This ordering of forms is pursued with an inclination to their abstract values, but the resulting dynamics also relate to the fast pace suggested by the urban context which Cottingham wishes to evoke. Although he is interested in typography and decorative lettering and prefers ‘Downtown’ street signs where there are numerous remnants from times when they were especially inventive and brash, this interest is not indulged simply for its own sake. Cottingham frequently modifies the appearance of a sign by cropping the image so that only a detail of the sign is included within the picture space. This enables him to invest the letters with a new, often incongruous, message or meaning, for example: ‘Orph’ 1972 (repr. Photo-Realist Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, n.p.) and ‘Wool Ants’ which figures in P07641. In other works, this manipulation is evidence of an inventive verbal wit, as in ‘Ode’ (repr. Edward Lucie-Smith, Super-Realism, Oxford, 1979, ill 26).
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986