Des Moines
Des Moines

this week

weekly art forecasts from Central Iowa

Who’s exhibiting and opportunities for artists


“Commercial signs are amazing. Here these monumental elaborate structures designed solely to tell you that this is where you can buy a hamburger or a pack of cigarettes. All that effort, all that pomposity just to sell you something. And yet, they are a heroic attempt by someone to leave his mark.”

-Robert Cottingham

Born in 1935 in Brooklyn, Robert Cottingham is known for his paintings and prints of urban American landscapes, particularly building facades, neon signs, movie marquees, and shop fronts. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1955 through 1958, he earned a BFA at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, in 1963. Cottingham began his professional artistic career as an art director for the advertising firm Young and Rubicam in the early 1960s. Although he is typically associated with Photorealism, Cottingham never considered himself a Photorealist, but rather a realist working in a long tradition of American vernacular scenes. In this respect, his work often draws parallels to a number of American painters such as Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, Chuck Close and Charles Sheeler.

Robert Cottingham taught at the Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles (1969–70), and the National Academy of Design, New York (1991). He was the artist in residence at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut (1987–92). His work has been included in significant group exhibitions, including Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1972), and those at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1973); Centre national d’art contemporain, Paris (1974); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1978); a traveling exhibition at the National Museum of American Art (now Smithsonian American Art Museum), Washington, D.C. (1986); Samsung Museum of Modern Art, Seoul (2001); and Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009). Cottingham’s printed oeuvre was celebrated by a solo presentation at National Museum of American Art in 1998–99.  

In 1994 Cottingham began work on a series of 26 lithographs titled An American Alphabet, which was ultimately completed in 2012.  Steven Vail Fine Arts is honored to present this body of work. 

Robert Cottingham lives and works in western Connecticut.

Free and open to the public Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 11am-4pm.
Also by appointment
Historic Teachout Building
500 East Locust Street, Floor 2
Des Moines, IA 50309


Rachel Buse