Do pilgrims only progress or do they travel backwards too? John Bunyan’s allegory of man’s forward movement towards Zion was taken up as a founding story of travelling to the New World: a religious justification for Europeans’ brutal occupation of America. Yet pilgrimage has since then gone the other way, becoming a search for an authentic self and homeland. Coachloads of white American tourists flock back to Europe in search of roots long since withered. These double meanings of pilgrimage, as locating and dislocating oneself, are mapped out in American artist Emma cc Cook’s new exhibition, inspired by the discovery of her Scottish roots and her ongoing exploration of national identity.  - Public 



















B. 1989, Mpls, MN
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA


Studio:
Emmaccxxk@gmail.com




Education :
2010 BFA in Painting, University of Minnesita, Twin Cities
2012 Classical Realism, Angel Academy, Florence Italy



Select Solo Exhibitions :
2023 Forthcoming - Adams & Ollman, Portland, Oregon
2022 Pilgrim - Public Gallery, London, England
2022 Flags - Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles, California
2022 Peeping Tom, Et Al, Mission, San Francisco, California
2021 The Company,  Adams & Ollman, Portland, Oregon
2021 Milkman Pigeon, Half Gallery, New York, New York
2019 To hold ‘em or fold ‘em, Sadie Halie, Minneapolis, Minnesota



Group Exhibitions & Fairs :
2022  Forthcoming - Solo Nada Miami, Et al, San Francisco, California
2022 Material Art Fair, Anonymous gallery, Mexico City, Mexico
2022 Felix, Adams & Ollman,  Los Angeles, California
2021 Stress Tested, Public Gallery, London, England
2021 Nada Miami, Et al,  Miami, Florida
2021 Frieze New York,  Half Gallery, The Shed, New York, New Yor
2021Resting Point of Accomodation,  Almine Rech, Brussels, Belgium
2020  ALAC Fair, Et al,  Los Angeles, California
2020Eartha, Adams & Ollman, Portland, Oregon
2018  Utopian visions art fair, Chicken Coop Contemporary, Portland, Oregon
2018 Lemon in the night, Mild Climate, Nashville, Tennessee
2017 Whistle Jacket, ChlORO, Mexico City, Mexico
2017 Slow Patsy, Bus Projects, Melbourne, Australia
2017 N. 16: BEAT THE SYSTEM LIKE A DEAD HORSE, Museum Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
2015  Plum, Bedfellows Club,  San Francisco, California 
2015 DEAR MAMA,  Department of Signs and Symbols, Brooklyn, New York    
2015 Mnemonic Arrangements, The Emata Building, Medellin, Columbia
2009 20 Under 20, Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota





Awards & Residencies :
2016  Artist in residence, Campos de Gutierrez, Medellin, Colombia
2016  Minnesota State Arts Board, Arts Initiative Grant
2014  Artist in residence, Vyticail Residency, Arts Students League of New York
2010  Gay M. Grossmen Memorial Arts Scholarship
2010  Carter Prize in Painting Arts Scholarship






Curation :
2021 Stress Tested, Public Gallery, London, England



Emma cc Cook (b. 1989, Minneapolis, USA) lives and works Los Angeles, CA. She graduated with a BFA in painting from University of Minnesota and studied classical realism at the Angel Academy in Florence, Italy. Recent solo exhibitions include Flags, Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles, California (2022), Peeping Tom, Et Al, Mission, San Francisco, California (2022); The Company, Adams Ollman, Portland, Oregon (2021); Milkman Pigeon, Half Gallery, New York, New York (2021). Recent group exhibitions include Stress tested (curated by the artist), Public Gallery, London, UK (2021); and Resting Point of Accommodation, Almine Rech, Brussels, Belgium (2021). Select residencies include New York School of the Arts at Vytacil and Campos de Gutierrez in Medellin, Colombia. Emma received the MSAB grant, the Carter Prize in Painting and the Gay M. Grossman Memorial Scholarship.

-

-Do pilgrims only progress or do they travel backwards too? John Bunyan’s allegory of man’s forward movement towards Zion was taken up as a founding story of travelling to the New World: a religious justification for Europeans’ brutal occupation of America. Yet pilgrimage has since then gone the other way, becoming a search for an authentic self and homeland. Coachloads of white American tourists flock back to Europe in search of roots long since withered. These double meanings of pilgrimage, as locating and dislocating oneself, are mapped out in American artist Emma cc Cook’s new exhibition, inspired by the discovery of her Scottish roots and her ongoing exploration of national identity.

Pilgrim, Cook’s first UK solo show, continues her interest in ‘archaeologies of place’ – specifically America – gathering signs that speak the history and present of a location. But her drawings and paintings show places where the defining features have long since been stripped away. She depicts land zapped by capitalism and mono-culture, in both the agricultural meaning and the sense of a society which only tells one story about itself, raking over all others. Lines upon lines describe the ploughed fields of America’s rural Midwest, where the artist grew up, but they verge upon abstraction and non-representation: they could be nowhere, their essence extracted. Box-like vignettes show images, incidents and artefacts recovered from these sites, but are too fragmentary to coalesce into a single identity. These little squares seem more like cartoon cells or movie storyboards; the country as equal parts fiction and evidence. Her larger paintings and drawings only show objects, standing in for their owners, imbued with their aura, significant but not quite legible, like details in a dream. Perhaps her archaeology is of America’s unconscious.

The lines and grids of her work, including the many wooden frames within frames, belong not only to abstraction and agriculture, but also to the order of the archive. Nodding to the repeating cells of Hanne Darboven’s mammoth index Cultural History 1893-1983 (1983) – an acknowledged influence – with its dizzying mix of the historical and the personal, the artwork and the postcard, Cook tries to piece together the myth of America, and her place in it, through the monumental as well as the humble, neglected or anecdotal. She does this in her painterly borrowings from American folk art, or in her collection of found objects – marginal things which bear a heavy ideological weight. On show are farm implements straight out of Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930), but which are European in design and made for work now done by disenfranchised immigrants; cowboy ephemera signifying courage and conquest that masks cruelty; or a little brush with a dolls head, gendering virtue. Cook points to the unruliness of the archive, but also how the nation over-organises its citizens. Her work is a grand index of signs right down to her choice to work with mahogany (a wood plundered by colonising Europeans) or canvases in black wool (sourced from Europe). Like Bunyan, the artist might be writing an allegory of homeland, but in this case of the nation as a dark and foolhardy organising principle.
-Public Gallery, Paul Clinton 


Suspended disaster lurks throughout Emma cc Cook’s vampiric interiors and sprawling landscapes. Something cataclysmic has happened: an anemic season, the breakdown of language, a long night perforated by sweeping floodlights. In several drawings and in the exhibition’s sole oil painting, manicured tracts of ashen land roll by through neatly cropped windows. Thoughts and memories interject in vignettes dislocated from their makers and packed neatly into gridded cells, evoking comic strips, graphic storyboards and, of course, flags.

Like flags, Cook’s systems of organization prove both intuitive and opaque. Symbols and relationships are often implied, but rarely explained; narratives crystallize and break apart, and dividing lines are alternately binding and bypassed. Desiccated variants of the American flag declare themselves to the viewer like beacons: stretched, compacted, and drained of blood, they become abstractions caught between inherited meanings and possible alternatives. Would a person only vaguely familiar with the history of the United States pick out the significance behind fifty stars and thirteen stripes? What about thirty-nine stripes and a wrung-out mop? Twenty-four stars, thirty-five stripes, and a sketch of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon?

Cook’s vision of a zapped America confronts the viewer with a hushed urgency. The works on paper, deep-set in blackened steel and mahogany frames, suggest an ominous future-folk art, nodding to withering craft traditions and beset notions of agrarian self-sufficiency. There’s still value and beauty inherent to making, argues Cook. All is not lost; fish, chicken, and wine are still on the table.

Possibility dances across the faces dotted throughout, and in the very bones of the works’ construction. The artist’s psychic rumblings portend renewal and rebirth by presenting a vacuumed moment of sharp inhalation. Indeed, Cook’s exhausted America cycles constantly between ruin and replenishment. An abiding tension between the safety of home and a vast physical and spiritual wilderness guides the viewer through despair and into promise. Salvation through making; shelter embedded in memory. Flags of a future marked by empty fields, full tables, and scattered faces, lost for words.

-Moskowitz Bayse


In Cook's mottled, shape-shifting environments, horizons blur, often distinguishable only by subtle changes in texture, while figures and symbols emerge from darkly cast undulating pastoral fields, disrupting the pictorial plain. Female figures, candelabras, symbolic gates, and newspaper headlines dot a landscape reminiscent of the American agricultural midwest, with orderly parcels of land, barns, and towering pylons. Sometimes cartoonish, sometimes unsettlingly wrought, these graphic vignettes function like the artifacts of a visual archaeology of place, intimating darker histories and hushed words. We see a newspaper clipping, illegibly narrating some past event or related memory; a progression of shovels, slowly entering the ground in rhythmically arranged frames across a field of unspecified crops; a marble bust resting glibly over the head of some dreamer, exhausting, perpetual, like some nostalgic zombie.

Through her paintings, Cook weaves worlds that reflect a comingling of space with bodies in physio-historical imaginative projections that blur the line between what is present and past, here and gone, known and unknown, personal and collective. They exist somewhere in between being and becoming, beckoning a new world that is not yet formed, caught in contemplation of what could be.

- Adams & Ollman

t
Do pilgrims only progress or do they travel backwards too? John Bunyan’s allegory of man’s forward movement towards Zion was taken up as a founding story of travelling to the New World: a religious justification for Europeans’ brutal occupation of America. Yet pilgrimage has since then gone the other way, becoming a search for an authentic self and homeland. Coachloads of white American tourists flock back to Europe in search of roots long since withered. These double meanings of pilgrimage, as locating and dislocating oneself, are mapped out in American artist Emma cc Cook’s new exhibition, inspired by the discovery of her Scottish roots and her ongoing exploration of national identity.