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I'll Be Your Mirror: Stephen Haller Gallery presents 21 photographs by Kate O'Donovan Cook
Kate O'Donovan Cook, Manet Revisited, 2013. Digital C print. Photo: Stephen Haller Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- Stephen Haller Gallery announces Kate O’Donovan Cook: I’ll Be Your Mirror. The exhibition comes direct from its recent installation in the Mattatuck Museum in Connecticut, and is composed of an outstanding selection of 21 of the artist’s photographs from 2008 to 2013.

Kate O’Donovan Cook is well known for her technique of photographing herself as multiple people in a single image to frame a narrative. Her work is characterized by explorations of identity through role playing in ways both theatrical and fantastical. Cook’s painterly photographs reflect her strong narrative and visual heritage: her father was renowned West Coast painter Gordon Cook, her grandfather Ireland’s master storyteller Frank O’Connor, her grandmother actress Evelyn Bowen.

Earlier this year Cook was a featured artist in the exhibition How is the World? Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Photography at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art (called a “photography powerhouse” by the Washington Post). Cook’s work was singled out for praise by the DC critics.

The current exhibition includes examples from a number of the artist’s series. Often influenced by place, the artist’s Waldorf Series depicts an assignation in a hotel room in which the artist explores issues of gender and the ambiguity of relationship. Cook plays with the idealization of a romantic relationship, subverting it by portraying both characters: she is the male and female engaged in this ambiguous scenario. Cook, who received her MFA in 2010 from Maryland Institute College of Art, says the classic row houses of Baltimore reminded her of dovecotes. In her series Baltimore: the Family she wears a white bird-like mask. Construction of Appearance: the Webster Series takes place in front of a mirror in the dressing room of a famed music venue. Critic Tracey O’Shaughnessy called this “Cook’s most elegant if disquieting series.”

This is the 150th Anniversary of the exhibition of Manet’s notorious painting Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (which depicted the artist’s model nude in a park alongside dressed men). Cook’s 2013 photograph Manet Revisited comments on that work. Critic O’Shaughnessy writes: "O’Donovan Cook’s work is deeply entrenched in art history…In O’Donovan Cook’s version, all of the party are women, some of them dressed and not…claiming a feminist perspective on a deeply provocative and iconic work.” An edition of the Cook work is now in the permanent collection of the Mattatuck Museum.

O’Shaughnessy has written of Cook: “She is at once model, muse and artist, a commentator on the reflective gaze.” The evocative title of this exhibition references the frequent use of the reflective gaze in the artist’s work, and also honors the memory of musician/poet Lou Reed. Born and raised in San Francisco, Kate O’Donovan Cook lives and works in New York City.

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