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Cora Cohen: Bridge Freezes Before the Road

Curated by Karen Wilkin

“As I explore visual propositions, my drawings build their own conditions for possibility. As peripheral elements develop during the process of making, they are folded into the mix. A work comes into being through uncertainty, erasure and displacement, and when its beginnings reemerge, it is finished. These works do not attempt to control their reception through titles or presentation – the drawing is always its own description.”   – Cora Cohen

Cora Cohen’s works on paper, like her paintings, are mysterious and poetic. They celebrate both the hand and the particular qualities of their mediums while, at the same time, making us feel that we are in the presence of a distinctive, highly individual personality. Cohen’s drawings range from spare, elegant gatherings of exquisitely delicate lines and zones of color, to vigorous, layered accumulations of repeated, insistent strokes, along with the occasional explosive burst of usually subdued hues. Cohen reminds us of the fluidity of her mediums, as she explores the way liquid pigment behaves when it is manipulated – or willed into being – by a clear-headed, inventive painter, but she also exploits the resistance of harder, drier pencil, moved by a supple wrist. Her elusive images can provoke countless, often contradictory associations in us, associations that embrace both the world of nature and the man-made – everything from plant life (very broadly interpreted) to x-rays, and a lot in between. Yet ultimately, our attention is claimed and held by the subtle shifts in surface and hue, the overlappings and “escapes,” that assert the artist’s presence. If we look hard enough at Cohen’s works on paper, we can feel that they are coming into being as we watch.

Cora Cohen was born in Manhattan in 1943. A graduate of Bennington College, she has taught and lectured extensively, internationally, including at the New York Studio School. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, grants from the NEA, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Gottlieb Foundation, and the Pollock/Krasner Foundation. She lives and works in New York City.

– Karen Wilkin

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