Tony Cokes Commission on View at Dia Bridgehampton - 27 East

Arts & Living

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Tony Cokes Commission on View at Dia Bridgehampton

authorStaff Writer on Jun 21, 2023

A new commission by artist Tony Cokes is going on view at Dia Bridgehampton. The exhibition opens June 23, and will remain on view through May 2024. The commission comprises a site-responsive, two-channel video installation presented within the ground-floor galleries. An activation of the Shinnecock Monument electronic billboards extends the work outdoors, beyond the gallery space.

Since the late 1980s, Cokes has appropriated and remixed text, music and documentary images into videos and installations that investigate the interrelations of politics, popular culture, race and identity. These pared down, yet highly affective, videos typically include a variety of recontextualized excerpts of writings — culled from theory, philosophy, journalism, politics and social media — that unfold against monochromatic color backdrops, set to soundtracks of popular music.

“Cokes has a history of powerfully integrating his work into institutions and the built environment while deploying formal and conceptual strategies key to Dia’s legacy,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg Director. “Dia’s collaboration with Cokes, the first nonlocal artist to present work at Dia Bridgehampton in recent years, offers a unique opportunity for meaningful engagement with the rich and layered histories of the site while also prompting new, critical perspectives on Dan Flavin’s work, which is on permanent display.”

Cokes presents new work in dialogue with the material histories of the site of Dia Bridgehampton, a former firehouse–turned–First Baptist Church. The context-specific audio-video installation on the first floor responds to the permanent Dan Flavin installation on the second floor, which resonates with Cokes’s own conceptual and formal interests in radiant, monochromatic color and light. The colors comprising the artist’s two-channel video are influenced by Flavin’s palette and overlaid with texts from Dia’s archive and publications that cite the history, transition, and development of the site, as well as scholarship on Flavin and Cokes’s own writings.

The moving images are projected in opposite corners of the gallery and animate its unique interior architecture. Defying museum conventions of the “black box,” in which video works are shown in darkened environments, the installation embraces natural light while also using Flavin-inspired color filters to flood the space with immersive colored light.

Drawing from the sonic history of the site, a soundtrack engages the spirits of Black culture and church music that inhabit the space, sampling contemporary tracks from the Black diaspora that fuse soul, blues, gospel, and electronic music to cultivate, in the artist’s words, a feeling of “Flavin, fire, and gospel.”

“Engaging the politics of color and applying a contemporary social filter to the monochrome, Cokes’s project shines urgent light on Dia’s history and the legacy of Dan Flavin. Putting color and text into motion via digital technologies, the work also brings new media — and political relevance — to Dia Bridgehampton,” said curator Jordan Carter, who organized the exhibition with Emily Markert, curatorial assistant.

While conceptually tethered to Dia Bridgehampton itself, the commission also takes on an expanded presence offsite, punctuating advertisements on the two 61-foot-tall Shinnecock Monument electronic billboards, located along Sunrise Highway in Southampton. The billboards are operated by the Shinnecock Indian Nation and welcome many visitors arriving by car to Dia Bridgehampton. This offsite component will be on view from June 23 through July 30, 2023, and at other points throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Dia’s permanent installation, nine sculptures in fluorescent light, created by Dan Flavin between 1963 and 1981, will also be on view on the second floor of Dia Bridgehampton.

Tony Cokes was born in 1956 in Richmond, Virginia. He received a BA from Goddard College, Vermont, and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. Cokes participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. In 2022, he was the subject of a major survey jointly organized by the Haus der Kunst and Kunstverein, both in Munich. He is the recipient of the 2023 Rome Prize. Cokes is a professor in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, Rhode Island, and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Dia Bridgehampton is located at 23 Corwith Avenue in Bridgehampton, New York. Dia Bridgehampton is always free.

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