The San Francisco art scene is rapidly changing and former New York gallerist and art consultant Katie Cooper wanted to be a part of the Bay Area’s growing art community. Naturally, the former co-director at Pioneer Works, packed up and headed back to her native California and landed at The Laundry, an experimental art gallery and event space nestled in San Francisco’s Mission District.
With such an impressive background, we were excited to catch up with Cooper to discuss her West Coast move, impressive background and upcoming plans for The Laundry.
Art Zealous: Morning routine?
Katie Cooper: I love the morning. I enjoy a glass of hot lemon water while listening to The Daily, take my dog, Jax, for a walk up to Bernal Hill Park, then if I’m lucky a 7-minute workout or yoga. I end my morning with an herbal infusion of oatstraw and rose tea. When I arrive at the gallery, I always have a gorgeous almond milk cappuccino by 3-19 Coffee, the partners in our Cafe.
AZ: Zodiac sign?
KC: I’m a cancer, so I like to create spaces that feel engaged and welcoming.
AZ: You never leave home without…
KC: My black faux leather tote from one of my favorite boutiques on Valencia Street: Wallflower.
AZ: You have an impressive background, you were co-director at Pioneer Works, a Managing Director at Dustin Yellin’s Studio, and you own a consultancy firm. Walk us through your career and how you made your way to San Francisco?
KC: I’m so grateful to have intersected with Pioneer Works, Dustin Yellin and the many worlds within NYC during my 12-year stint. But as a California native, it felt natural to take those experiences and collaborate within the context of new histories and lineages. There’s so much cross-pollination between the coasts and I love seeing how geography and history influence the experience and quest of an artist’s work.
AZ: As a former New Yorker, talk to us about the differences in the art scene in NYC vs San Fran. Do you prefer one over the other?
KC: There’s certainly no place like NYC, it’s the densely rich cultural center we all love and the heart of the contemporary art scene, but I’ve loved familiarizing myself with how vibrant the San Francisco art community is. With the expansion of SFMoMA, the opening of the Minnesota Street Project, and a myriad of ultra-brilliant galleries like CULT Exhibitions, Jessica Silverman Gallery, CTRL+SHFT Collective, and so so many others, San Francisco has a unique opportunity to buck the art trends and authentically support innovative thought and art.
AZ: Where did the name of the gallery come from?
KC: The name of The Laundry is an homage to the history of the building. It was erected in 1932, and shortly thereafter was purchased by a French family who emigrated in the early 40s. They opened a French laundry and dry cleaning, joining the first wave of community laundering spaces in the 1930s. We wanted to honor the families and legacies of this neighborhood and to develop a dialogue with our surrounding community. The symbolism also speaks to the work we do here, as water is the element of the unconscious and is associated with intuition, emotion, transformation, and rebirth.
AZ: What is the overall vision for The Laundry?
KC: The Laundry is a gallery dedicated to the art of emerging and established local artists. We value a dynamic approach to programming with regards to medium, theme, and identity. A multidisciplinary approach helps foster the cross-pollination of ideas for both viewers and artists. We hope to allow each of our exhibitions to inhabit and transform the gallery space, to infuse it with different perspectives and modes of communication. We aim to advocate for local artists and provide a platform for them to gather and have a dialogue around their art-making practices. Creating culture is at the heart of our work here, which can often be a challenging task to take on. Artists in the Bay Area face significant economic challenges, and we hope to play a role in nurturing and supporting the artist community. The Laundry is constantly evolving and growing to draw in relevant work and serve as a vital resource for both our neighborhood and Bay Area artist community.
AZ: We admire your approach to multidisciplinary programming, for example, your upcoming show with artist Suzy Kellems Dominik will feature her new film WE THE PEOPLE alongside INVISIBLE, a large-scale installation of 5 surrealistic totems. Talk to us about that.
KC: It is such an honor to present Suzy’s exhibition of select works. At the heart of Suzy’s work, is a profound, powerful vulnerability. Each totem is meticulously hand-sculpted, the history of their stories evident in every line and curve. The sculptures are inspired by elements both art historic and contemporary: foundational Greek totems, fertility sculptures like the Venus of Willendorf, and a sock-puppet identity project the artist participated in alongside her daughters. I love being surrounded by INVISIBLE. These impressive totems towering above are at once the embodiment of ancient wisdom and unguarded contemporary experience. This balance is struck so effortlessly and powerfully in part due to the rigorous historical research and self-examination so evident in Suzy’s work. The neon poem illuminates the sculptures in the artist’s handwriting, and underscores the very-real sentiment that “without feet, one cannot escape” acknowledging the confines of cultural, society, and convention.
AZ: How did you come to discover the work of Suzy Kellems Dominik and what drew you to her work.
KC: I’m so in love with how Suzy’s breadth of work shares her dedication to unabashedly explore salient themes around objectification and the male gaze, human trauma, female sexuality, individual agency, and her own experience of loss and survival. I first read about Suzy’s work at Miami Basel in 2017, but it wasn’t until a reconnection in mid-2018 that the idea sparked and we determined to present INVISIBLE and excerpts from We The People series. The exhibition was a collaborative exercise for us both and we are thrilled to have been able to present select works in the mediums of sculpture, video, and digital print,
AZ: Do you have any advice for young people looking towards a career in the arts?
KC: Get to know yourself: cultivate and follow your curiosity and interests fully. Go to openings, meet other artists and curators. Read, surround yourself with art and collaborate. Your community is such a life force.
AZ:Any exciting projects coming up?
KC: In early March, our group show featuring the works of Purin Phanichphant, Suelyn Yu, and Adrien Segal will offer perspectives on climate change. We will also host a panel discussion in collaboration with the NRDC.
AZ: How can we stay in touch? (website, social media)
An Excavation: Select Works by Suzy Kellems Dominik is on view at The Laundry, 3359 26th Street, San Francisco, through February 24, 2019.
top image // Katie Cooper, Artistic Director of The Laundry