Sky Captain: Peter Coffin

The Artist Has His Head in the Clouds for a New Exhibition

Having once famously launched a UFO over Rio de Janeiro, Peter Coffin again turns his attention to the sky for his show Cosmolology +1 at Herald St gallery. The New York-based artist plumbed the inaccuracies of 19th-century photography to arrive at the exuberant images we feature today. In that era, collodion film's hyper-sensitivity to the blue of the sky meant images would register devoid of clouds—forcing photographers to add them into the scene later as a composite. When Coffin searched the archives of institutions such as the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and the New York Public Library for these early landscape photographs, he found instances of identical skies appearing in unrelated scenes. He reproduced these examples, sourced from the likes of Eadweard Muybridge, Henry Peach Robinson and Gustave Le Gray, then augmented the historical images to disrupt their intended idyllic effect. The technicolor results present meteorologic impossibilities such as the pairing of cumulus and cirrus clouds. “My work gets misunderstood on occasion because it appears to be joyful,” explains Coffin. “It often is, but that's unimportant—I don’t expect the work to only be about what it appears to be about.” His next ambition? To dye actual clouds with food coloring using a crop dusting plane.


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