|Robert Cottingham, The Spot, color lithograph,|
edition 27 of 46, 1982. Gift of Vicki Vanderslice
Robert Cottingham worked as the art director at a major New York advertising firm in the early 1960s when both Pop art and photorealistic painting were attracting attention. After relocating to Los Angeles, Cottingham refocused his career on becoming a fine artist. It was there that, like artists such as Ed Ruscha, Cottingham became interested in the way that advertising signage defined a distinctive consumerist identity in American culture. It was, however, his childhood visits to Times Square where, as the artist describes it, “the seed was planted, when I saw the kind of activity going on above the ground level.”
His work is most often associated now with his 1960s and ‘70s realist contemporaries such as painters Richard Estes and Chuck Close, and sculptor Duane Hanson. Accordingly, Cottingham was granted a major retrospective at the Smithsonian Museum of American art in 1998.
During his travels, Cottingham photographs advertising signs and translates them, as whole signs or as individual letters, into painting and lithographs. In lithographs such as The Spot, the artist seeks to preserve the unique appearance of mid-20th century signage, much of which has now disappeared, that defined thriving downtowns across the nation.
The Spot is currently on view in the first-floor galleries.