Joseph Cohen’s Rich Paintings Blend Pigment with Diamond and Gold Dust
In keeping with Cohen’s philosophical bent, the show is titled, “Dasein.” A German term that translates literally as “being there,” dasein refers to existence, especially our own existence as it relates to and is defined by our surroundings. With his work, the artist connects the concept to the act of viewing art, aiming to surround viewers with painting as they may not have experienced it before. Cohen intends to shift the sense of what a painting is and can be, while creating an environment that may even alter a sense of self. He does this through monochromatic compositions that refer only to themselves. He explains that with his paintings he does “not attempt to represent nor abstract from anything in this world.” Rather, they are “precisely paintings about paint’s ability to exist as color and physical matter” he says. “Mining the rich history of painting, I scrutinize every characteristic and property of paint.”
Cohen works on wood panels and with his own, hand-mixed pigments, often combining them with the dust of various metals, diamonds, and gold. He uses a brush to paint on the pigment one thin coat at a time, building up tactile surfaces composed of hundreds of individual layers. He allows the paint to dribble and drip down his panels’ surfaces, extending beyond the confines of their edges to form uneven fringes. In addition to paint’s role as “a sensual viscous matter that can flow, drip, and carry a brushstroke’s gesture,” he writes about his process in an artist statement, “it is also used mechanically, geometrically, and at times governed by the laws of gravity.” The compositions resulting from this marriage of control and chance appear as sculptural paintings, or painted sculpture.
Cohen’s paintings require slow viewing. To see the fullness of their visual richness, viewers must contemplate them from changing positions and many different angles. “My work calls for a slowing down, thus allowing a respite in which one may contemplate,” Cohen writes. The experience is a welcome antidote to our fast-paced, hyper-connected age.