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"About 14 years ago, I had a show at the Montgomery Museum of Art in Alabama. After the opening, the director took me aside and said, “You really ought to see this theater downtown.” The director’s assistant drove me downtown to the Empire, which was built in 1914. It was closed, but still standing… I learned that the bus Rosa Parks was on was actually stopped in front of this theater when the police were called to arrest her in 1955. After I had seen and photographed it, the theater was torn down. The Rosa Parks Library and Museum now stands on the site.”

Robert Cottingham
November 2010

New York, February 2011 – A famous movie theater in Montgomery, Alabama, the site where Rosa Parks started the Civil Rights Movement, is the subject of an exhibition of new work by Robert Cottingham at Forum Gallery from February 24 through April 9, 2011. Empire will focus on nine paintings and drawings from 2008-2010, depicting the theater’s marquee in oil, watercolor, gouache and graphite. Many of the paintings are monumental in size, which intensify their dramatic effect as they salute a bygone era.

Robert Cottingham is known for imagery that celebrates the history of communications in America, specifically signage on urban storefronts, iconic communication devices such as vintage typewriters and cameras, and signs on railroad cars. The Empireseries is an exploration of urban history, and the exhibition is an examination of the Artist’s consistent process. In 2008, Cottingham was asked by Lincoln Center to create an image for the anniversary of their Film Festival. Looking for a topic that would inspire him, Cottingham found the photos of the Empire Theater he had taken 12 years before. The subject of the search, the history of the place, the meaning of the word and the look of the theater came together for him.

Like Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist, Cottingham emerged from an advertising background. Together with Richard Estes and Chuck Close, Cottingham is considered to be one of the most important of the seminal photorealist artists.

Robert Cottingham lives and works in Western Connecticut. He was born in Brooklyn and educated at the Pratt Institute. His paintings and drawings are collected on an international level; his work is in the collections of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Sentra Museum, Berardo Collection, Lisbon, Portugal, and Boymans-von Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, Netherlands, among others. Cottingham’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

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An opening reception for the artist will be held on February 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Forum Gallery’s new location at 730 Fifth Avenue at 57th Street. 

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