Robert Cottingham -
An American Alphabet: R
American, b. 1935
An American Alphabet: R, 2002
Lithograph, 30.75 x 21.75 inches
Robert Cottingham is internationally renowned as one of America's most important photo-realist painters. He has also described himself as a closet abstractionist because of the way he selects and separates forms in different contexts. He draws inspiration from the paintings of Piet Mondrian, Edward Hopper, Charles Demuth, Stuart Davis, and Marsden Hartley. He uses his camera as a sketchbook and for him printmaking is "a great aid in painting because it continually gives him new insights into technique." Over the years he has tended to work in series: buildings, signs, words, numbers, letters, railroad imagery, and typewriters.
Cottingham's work focuses on Americana. For example, many of his paintings and prints depict the architecture and commercial signage of downtown America in the forties and fifties that have now all but disappeared. Cropped from his photographs of words on old theater marquees and shop signs, details of nearly vanished urban landscapes, the images in An American Alphabet were found by the artist on various journeys across America since the '70s. Some letters are taken from familiar store signs of the '30s through the '50s, including a W from a gilt Woolworth sign and a K from the dime-store chain, Kresge's.