Taylor Hall O'Brien visits a 3000 square-foot warehouse bursting with creativity and atmosphere, filled with thousands of books and endless collections of objects: the Minneapolis studio of writer and artist, David Coggins Senior.
TAYLOR HALL O'BRIEN | ART & CULTURE | 12 FEBRUARY
In 1996, David Coggins was looking for a new studio. He visited a recently renovated space in a brewery warehouse built in 1910. Two of the walls in the 3,000 square-foot loft had rows of large windows overlooking downtown Minneapolis and the Mississippi River. He signed a lease immediately. What began as an empty shell of brick and concrete, slowly and organically morphed into so much more.
Stepping inside the studio today, you feel as though you’ve entered David’s mind. The space is bursting with creative energy, Bookshelves and tables hold thousands of books, surfaces are covered with endless collections of objects and mementos: family portraits, masks, textiles, archival boxes, stones, old tools, antiques from around the world. Each object, each tableau resonates with the energy of a story.
Both the space and the objects within it are arranged in such a way that it feels like an installation. Given David’s background in set design, I know this is no accident; this sense of layout is innate. His purposefully curated collections create a dialogue with his works of art. They coexist in ways both visceral and contemplative.
On the north side of the studio is David’s workspace. Tables are covered with watercolors, inks, oils, colored pencils, pastels. His latest paintings are graphic compositions of pattern and spontaneous brush work. Vivid inks on sheets of Nepal gridded string paper remind one of primitive textiles. Ink and acrylic paintings of his early abstract landscapes hang on walls along with photo collages of cities. Elsewhere, there are models of set designs from past theater productions.
David is also a writer and a maker of books. On a table is a grouping of one-off books. One, called The Sand Book, is filled with drawings of Egypt and covered in grains of sand glued to the pages, while another, Dust, is full of striking pastels.
In the center of the studio is an installation from 1998 entitled Pascal’s Room. Through a small door the viewer enters a square-shaped room with a simple wooden chair and a tiny Bahamian window. The interior walls are covered in tile-like fashion with hand-colored photographs from David’s travels to cities around the world, among them Buenos Aires, Berlin, Prague, Delhi, Cairo, and Istanbul.
Five minutes with: David Coggins
Your favorite city in the world?
Paris then New York.
You’ve just landed in Paris. Where is your first stop?
Café de Flore for lunch, Le Voltaire (the old Voltaire) for dinner. In between, a walk in the Tuileries and by the Bouquinistes along the river.
Your favorite museum or gallery (anywhere in the world)?
Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Met in New York, Brancacci Chapel in Florence.
Your wife, Wendy, is an interior designer. What influence has she had on the evolution of your studio space?
Wendy, an artist in her own right, has had a lot to do with the studio. We worked together on the more “serious” things like the antique tables and chairs and the textiles. The quirkier things are strictly my own doing: the found objects, the taxidermy, the flea market finds.
An artist you’d collect if you could?
Kurt Schwitters, Howard Hodgkin, Albert York, to name a few.
A new artist whose work excites you?
I like the work of contemporary American artist Rashid Johnson.
An exhibition that took your breath away?
Picasso drawings show at the Centre Pompidou which I just saw.
The last book you read (or film you saw) and loved?
Book: “Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life and Sudden Death” by Laura Cumming. Film: Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night.”
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