Art Review

Amber Cobb Takes Us to Bed, Bath and Beyond at Gildar Gallery

Everything I’ve seen by Amber Cobb over the past several years has focused on domestic life, with a special interest in references to the bedroom. The artist’s oeuvre incorporates a wide range of material, from stomach-turning objects like stained and torn mattresses at one end to elegant and minimal expressions like her concrete mattress, “As I Adapt,” at the other.

Cobb’s most recent works share the same theme as these earlier pieces, conceptually addressing life at home, and a group of them comprise a handsome solo, Solace, currently on view at Gildar Gallery.

The show’s title suggests the idea of consolation, and the pieces that make up the exhibit are based on found objects — bedding and a bathroom rug — that for Cobb evoke the idea of comfort. Inspired by a book about how traumatized children are soothed by contact with familiar things, such as a well-loved blanket, she regards these found articles as representing the same kind of intimate connection, since they have come in direct contact with people’s bodies. The dialogue between comfort and alienation represented by the appropriated blankets and linens is the key dynamic of Solace.

For many of these pieces, Cobb has taken the found item and then saturated it in a resinous material that’s ordinarily used to make prosthetic limbs. Interestingly, though the main thrust of the works is conceptual, nearly all of them also function as formalist abstracts with conventional aesthetic appeal. Some are essentially post-minimalist compositions, including “Nuance” and “Muddy Compliments,” while others — like the marvelous “Held, Hugged, and Stroked,” a white shag bathroom rug that’s been dipped in pink resin — are more thoroughly expressionistic.

Cobb’s work may be easily associated with a current in feminist art dating back to the 1970s and now undergoing a full-scale rerun: the idea that the home is the battleground for women’s equality. When I asked her about this, Cobb told me that since she’s a woman, her work is inevitably feminist on some level. But her intentions go deeper than that, she said, adding that her creations resonate with men, too: “Everyone sleeps.” I take Cobb at her word — but in Solace, she is very obviously dealing with a female sensibility, because the overall atmosphere seems to refer to a little girl’s room...right down to the predominating pink-and-white color scheme.

Amber Cobb’s Solace runs through October 24 at Gildar Gallery; for information, call 303-993-4474 or go to
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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia