FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Miljohn Ruperto: Isabel Rosario Cooper
February 28–April 12, 2014
Opening Reception: Friday, February 28, 6–8PM
Koenig & Clinton is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist Miljohn Ruperto. Four years in the making, the artist deploys photography, film, video, and screenplay in homage to the eponymous actress. Isabel Rosario Cooper retrieves the actress from the sidelines of historical periphery and recasts her as a cinematic protagonist, releasing her image from the racial confines of both Hollywood and U.S. history.
Isabel Rosario Cooper began her career as a dancer, singer, and actress in Manila, Philippines in the mid-1920s, where she first met U.S. General Douglas MacArthur. In 1930, MacArthur took the 16-year old, mixed race vaudevillean as his mistress and subsequently arranged to keep her in a covert residence at the Chastleton Hotel in Washington, D.C. It is rumored that Cooper abided by a strict order to not leave her room for four years. When she did eventually leave, she moved west to continue her acting career in Hollywood. Before her suicide in 1960, Cooper appeared as an extra in numerous cinematic features.
In the main gallery, a series of eight appropriated professional headshots taken by Jose Reyes in 1940 depict Cooper donning various historical attire—a Western formal gown, a Chinese cheongsam, and Hawaiian grass skirt—documenting the wide range of stereotypical roles for which Cooper was commonly cast. Projected behind the curtain, Appearance of Isabel Rosario Cooper presents a sequence of film clips in which Cooper appeared during her Hollywood career. The digitally edited compendium obscures all participants but for Cooper herself. Frame-by-frame on 16mm film, her form floats throughout the blurred scenes unchallenged.
Adjacent to Appearance, a faint torch song echoes down an empty hallway in Ruperto’s Reappearance of Isabel Rosario Cooper. Revealing itself slowly, Cooper’s specter haunts a dark corridor moments before she retreats back into the shadows. The sole high-definition video in the exhibition, Arden Cho as Isabel Rosario Cooper imagines scenes from the actress’ life off-screen at the Chastleton Hotel. The original feature-length screenplay Dimples, penned by Miljohn Ruperto and Jean Shin, offers a fictionalized account spanning several months in Cooper’s life in the United States. It is inspired by Cooper’s biography, and written in the style of 1930s romantic screwball comedy films.
Miljohn Ruperto (b. 1971 Manila, the Philippines) received his M.F.A. from Yale University and his B.A., Studio Art from University of California, Berkeley. Following his inclusion in the first Made in L.A. biennial in 2012, Ruperto is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and his work has been exhibited at institutions including Whitechapel Project Space, London; The Wattis Institute, San Francisco; and LA><ART, Los Angeles. Ruperto lives and works in Los Angeles.
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