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"Horror Vacui! (International)", 2014
Oil on linen
Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art Collection
Gift of the artist
This painting was made at a time when Couper was drawing metaphorical comparisons between Las Vegas and vampires, particularly Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau’s 1929 film, Nosferatu. When Murnau’s attempts to procure the rights to Dracula were unsuccessful he made his own version of the story by changing the names of the characters in a bid to evade the author’s estate. Just as Nosferatu points towards Dracula, so casinos like Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas point towards the cities they imitate.
In these Horror Vacui works, the artist hints at his interest in Murnau by giving each painting the same vignette lighting as the movie — dark around the edges and brighter at the center. He suggests a parallel between the immortality of a vampire and the city’s habit of imploding its landmarks and resurrecting them. Ambiguously half-rising, half-lying in their coffins, the classic signs are accompanied by a mirror and a knotted rope, significant objects in vampire mythology. Couper explains that he builds his paintings by beginning with the object farthest back in space — in this case, the coffins — and layering other objects — in this case, the signs— successively on top of them. Every object is completely painted, even when another object partly covers it. (DKS)