Summer in the city


Lisa Cooper is ready to take people on a summer journey that won’t even require them to leave Riverdale.

The trip, instead, is all part of Cooper’s latest exhibition, “Summer in the City,” at her gallery, Elisa Contemporary Art. The exhibition — on display through Aug. 7 at the 5622 Mosholu Ave., space — explores architecture and cityscapes from the perspective of three artists; Yasemin Kaçkar Demirel, Dale Najarian and Jason Wright.

Long before any art goes up on the walls of Elisa, Cooper spends time developing a theme for a show she feels resonates with an audience. She then spends between two and four weeks trying to bring her ideas to life with the right artists.

It’s been a while since Elisa focused on architecture and cityscapes, so Cooper thought summer was the best time to bring that back.

“Rather than doing swimmers and water for the summer, I really wanted to do something that brought people into the mood of summer in the city,” Cooper said. “I really felt like these three artists brought that feeling together.”

Each of the artists Cooper chose for “Summer in the City” bring something different to the gallery space. Demirel draws inspiration from her upbringing in Turkey and living in places like New York City and Chicago. Najarian is inspired by colors and shadows. Wright taps into his past career as a skydiver.

When visitors walk into the gallery, Cooper believes it’s Demirel’s piece, “Where Everything Shifts,” that immediately catches their attention.

“It is the bright orange peachy colors and that splash of color that brings you in that’s just juxtaposed with a structure,” she said. “To me, that just has a wonderful gravitating quality to it to pull you in and really feel like you’re in the sun, in the warm, in the city.”

Meanwhile, Wright’s collection of work has a bit of mystery to it.

“Jason has this wonderful quality of inviting you into the space and having it feel a little bit unknown,” Cooper said. “You’re not quite sure where you’re going, there’s not an optimism. There’s an unknown quality in his work, so the buildings kind of balance you on both sides.”

For Najarian, it’s the story of how the work was produced that adds something special to it. The Connecticut-based artist photographed different parts of cities like New York, Cooper said, and would later go home, paint the background of her canvas, and only work at night to project the photographs onto that canvas.

“It was such an interesting way of creating and something that was so unique that I love being able to share that,” Cooper said.

When it comes to having people stop by to see “Summer in the City,” Cooper is always excited to hear people’s reactions to the work.

“Everyone is always so different, and certain people will walk in and say, ‘I don’t like black-and-white work,’” she said. “And they’ll be so pulled into Jason Wright’s work that a smile starts to come to their face, and they take their sunglasses off and they really get lost in that piece. Those are fun experiences.”

Cooper also thinks it helps to have each artist’s work complement one another in the show.

“People love to see the different ways that artists create and to bring the same subject to life in so many different ways,” she said.

In recent months, Cooper has used social media platforms like Instagram as a way to get people from outside of the Bronx to visit the gallery by sharing works on display.

“It’s nice to be able to get people who may not be familiar with the gallery to see the work and have that pull them in,” she said.

As people stop into Elisa Contemporary Gallery through the beginning of August, Cooper looks forward to inspiring creativity as they experience “Summer in the City.”

“I love the idea of art taking people into another space,” she said, “and having them really experience and feel like they’re being taken into a warm, welcoming, interesting area filled with curiosity.”