Primary Gallery, through Oct. 28.
Justin Cooper fills Primary Gallery with a fresh, engaging and witty group of paintings depicting various animals in the face of impending environmental catastrophe. Drawing on influences including Aesop's Fables and 18th-19th century Japanese printmaker and painter Katsushika Hokusai, Cooper intentionally forgoes any depictions of land and paints water scenes exclusively.
He keeps his color palette limited to mostly blues and whites, aside from the colors used for the animals and gold leaf, which he uses effectively to render haloes around the animals and embellish decorative details of the paintings. Cooper uses scale to an almost comical effect; pieces are either small enough to hang above a light switch, or large enough to command a sizeable wall and nowhere in between. Some works are rendered in both sizes and the larger pieces are unframed canvases that hang on the wall like tapestries.
Cooper states that "these characters have come to terms with their fluctuating habitat, with a sense of confidence and serenity," and the way he depicts this feeling is brilliant: most of the animals are surfing the waves. By juxtaposing the heavy, foreboding sense of environmental change with the lighthearted, carefree reference to California beach culture, he imposes the distinctly human sense of indifference to catastrophe upon animals. The overwhelming feeling is that we're pretty much screwed from here on out, so we might as well enjoy what's left of the ride.