Butler to show renowned realist’s paintings

Staff report


An exhibition of works by renowned realist painter Robert Cottingham will open Sunday at the Butler Institute of American Art and run through Nov. 20.

Cottingham, 80, will be present at an opening reception Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the museum, 524 Wick Ave.

“Presenting an exhibition of the work of Robert Cottingham has been a longtime dream,” said Louis Zona, director of the Butler.

The exhibition, titled “Robert Cottingham: Master Realist,” provides a retrospective look at the artist’s decade-long career with a collection of paintings, sketch books, typewriters and other objects that bring to light his unique vantage point and creative process.

The exhibition highlights his focus on methods of communication and the power conveyed by a single word, letter, symbol, or typeface in American signage and street advertising. Also displayed is the artist’s distinct portrayal of machinery parts and locomotives.

Zona describes Cottingham as an American original.

“It was [Cottingham] who helped develop and popularize contemporary realist painting,” said Zona. “But beyond his pioneer role in representational art, he has worked to preserve an important aspect of urban American popular culture. In a sense he has, through his painting, preserved for all time disappearing American imagery. In the process he has raised to iconic levels the signage that has come to mark the American city as well as the countryside.”

Cottingham is best known for his paintings and prints of urban American landscapes and components of Americana. His imagery depicts building facades, neon signs, movie marquees, shop fronts, boxcars, letter forms and machinery parts.

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