Form & Finish: Sculptures by Michael Cooper & John de Marchi

I’m pleased to share with you my newest curatorial project on display at the Petaluma Arts Center through March 16, 2014.

Form & Finish: Sculptures by Michael Cooper & John de Marchi features the work of two distinguished sculptors. Michael Cooper and John de Marchi maintained an enduring friendship until de Marchi’s passing in 2011. They shared a love for tools, quality finishes, superbly designed and crafted objects, as well as teaching what they loved. Cooper and de Marchi are both internationally acclaimed artists who have maintained studios in Sonoma County, California for many decades.

Cooper and de Marchi first met during the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s first Artists’ Soapbox Derby, which took place in May of 1975. The event was a fundraiser for the museum and involving over 100 artists and 75 hand-built race cars that were designed to coast downhill in San Francisco’s McLaren Park. A second version of the event was held in May of 1978. Michael Cooper and John de Marchi participated in both of these events, and while Cooper’s 1975 Soapbox Racer is in a private collection and not on view in this exhibition, de Marchi’s Sonoma Flyer 3, was actually driven by the artist during the 1978 event.

While each artist possesses his own distinct style and sensibility, both have created sculptures using machine shop equipment and mechanical engineering—combining machined components and industrial finishes to produce exquisitely designed sculptural pieces. Form and the arrangement of shapes is critical to both artists, however the way in which they handle form is quite different. In de Marchi’s work, symmetry and balance are essential, thus evoking a sense of taut Zen calm. On the other hand, Cooper’s work is about asymmetry and sensual forms, conveying a dynamic exuberance.

Aside from form and finish, content is also an important element in the work of these two artists. De Marchi approached to his work with the intention of creating metaphorical models exploring the philosophical nature of humanity. Cooper’s approach to content is much more direct, addressing edgy social and political issues such as environmental concerns, or our cultural attitudes toward guns.

Internationally known and legendary master artist, Michael Cooper, is an outstanding sculptor in wood, metal and other materials. Cooper’s work also exhibits brilliance in design and imagination. This exhibition highlights a selection of Cooper’s dazzling sculptures, each a phenomenally unique work of art. A collection of his work has recently been on tour with the Museum of Craft and Design, traveling across the nation, including Bellevue, Washington; Brockton, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California. Michael Cooper lives and works in Sebastopol.

John de Marchi was a long-time Petaluma resident and artist who passed away in May 2011. De Marchi worked in the Art Department at Sonoma State University for over twenty-five years as a technician and teacher. His work expresses his love of tools, precision, and industrial materials such as metal, acrylic, and magnets. De Marchi has had solo exhibitions at the Museo Italo Americano, the Iannetti Lanzone Gallery in San Francisco, and the Oakland Museum of California.

To fill out the story, a sampling of de Marchi’s extensive tool collection is on display, representing tools that he made, modified, or collected. Also included in the exhibition is photography by Mike Chase. Known for his dynamic photographs of motorcycles and cars, Chase captures his subjects with technical skill and an artist’s eye. A number of Chase’s photographs were published in Michael Cooper: A Sculptural Odyssey, 1968-2011 for the Museum of Craft and Design. Mike Chase maintains a studio in Santa Rosa.

The exhibition continues at the Petaluma Arts Center though March 16, 2014.

Related Events:
Sunday, February 2, 2 to 4 p.m., Gallery Talk and Demonstration by Michael Cooper; $7 members; $10 general.

Wednesday February 5, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Panel Discussion: The Life and Work of John de Marchi hosted by curator Satri Pencak with Mike Cooper, Michael McGinnis, Deborah Colotti and others; $7 members; $10 general.

Sunday, March 2, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Michael Cooper will host a tour of his studio for a select group of art lovers. Contact the Arts Center to reserve a place. $50 members; $65 general (includes a signed poster and refreshments).

Petaluma Arts Center is located at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA. For more information call 707-762-5600, or go to

Watch the promo video:

Installation slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos by Satri Pencak.


About Satri Pencak

Independent Curator, art writer
This entry was posted in Art Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Form & Finish: Sculptures by Michael Cooper & John de Marchi

  1. Petersen, Karen says:

    Satri, this is excellent. What do you think about posting it on the PAC website?


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