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OneWay Gallery’s Stephen Cook has spent more than a decade building a stable of regional artists, renovating his gallery to accommodate local artists and luring national talents to exhibit in the Ocean State. But this month, for the first time, Cook’s work stands alone in a solo exhibition titled, “220.”
The inspiration for the show, which features large-scale paintings created in the last year, was drawn from Cook’s artistic temperament: tense, impassioned, physical.
“My dad always says I’m wired 220,” he notes. “All of my work has been really movement based, energy based, music based. I’ll listen to music and physically move around the canvas, making aggressive, gestural marks. For a lot of my paintings, I’ll put a song on repeat so I’ll stay in that rhythm.”
For other works, Cook allows music to serve as a compulsory guide — the melodies guiding the composer.
“If I listen to Jay Z, Henry Mancini, Elvis Costello or Rancid, the work will change,” he says. “The rhythm and movement in the music will translate into the rhythm and movement in the painting or drawing.”
Cook’s solo show, which opens on Saturday, August 27 at the Boon Street gallery, features a dozen textural works of charcoal, paint, glue and polyurethane on canvas in the main gallery.
Music isn’t Cook’s only muse. He was bred for a life in art; many of his family members are working artists. Early on, his mother, who doubled as his high school art teacher, helped him discover his personal narrative.
“She told me, ‘There really are no mistakes in art,’ ” he says. “And because of that, I went in a completely different direction with my art. It gave me the freedom to use my energy to its full potential.”
Cook, who is originally from Missouri, studied art at Lindenwood University. A college trip up the East Coast led him, serendipitously, to Narragansett, where he discovered a large, open garage with duct tape on the floor, which denoted artists’ workspaces. Cook rented a corner for the summer.
“I sent a check every month for a year to hold my space,” Cook says. He relocated to Rhode Island to continue his work on Boon Street. Eventually, Cook took over the space, recruited artists he admired and expanded the gallery. And after thirteen years of building a home for edgy, contemporary artists, Cook’s high-octane work — an omnipotent force at the gallery — will stand on its own.
The exhibition opens on August 27 and runs through September 30. The public is invited to an artist’s reception on September 17 from 6 to 9 p.m.