New York-based painter Cora Cohen died at a hospice in Brooklyn on June 22 at the age of 79. As Barry Schwabsky wrote in ArtForum International reviewing her 2022 exhibition at Morgan Presents, she was “one of the most underrated painters in New York.”
The following information is taken from her website.
“I approach each day with an anything can happen mentality. Usually, I have a rough idea or a stance or an attitude that I want my painting to take, or a position that I want my work to have. In recent years, I would get five or six canvases stretched and primed by helpers in advance. Not having to do that myself seemed like a good idea – things go faster that way and while I wanted to slow down my application of paint, I wanted to keep producing paintings.
“In the Spring of 2020, my main studio helper left New York. When the pandemic hit hardest, I asked the others to stay home. I began doing the preparation myself, one at a time. I felt real pressure to make something beautiful in the face of the criminally unnecessary deaths and degradation of many. Doing the preparation was settling, and it was a way of connecting to the future painting.
“As support for Black Lives Matter grew and became increasingly diverse in 2020-2021, peaceful demonstrations were met with hostility and overt violence. Police killings of Black people continued unchecked, and I became even more alienated from American culture, particularly the legal system.
“I began going back into small unfinished paintings and drawings from various periods of my life that I had abandoned. My sense that life was not infinite, and that what I had not finished might never get finished unless I finished it right away, took over. My works from that period had behind them the sense of urgency that I felt. Because they had been begun at different periods, I saw them as bridges between past and present, between the past and a radically uncertain future.
“I have continued working on paintings one at a time, often printing the basic structure of earlier works onto primed linen, then working back into that printed armature directly, introducing conflicting scenarios. I do have a notion of what I want my current work to be, how I want it to present itself. I want to make a painting that is non-finite, ambiguous but at the same time rather serious and non-ironic, a painting one might not notice as a painting. One might walk by it as one does a wall or an unremarkable tree, a method of turning failure into a compelling act.” –Cora Cohen, 2022, NYC
Cohen’s works have been written about extensively in various publications including The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, Art in America, Art News, Flash Art, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, New York Magazine, ArtNet Magazine, and on artcritical.com. Cohen’s work is in the permanent collection of many institutions including: the Swedish State Arts Council, Stockholm; The Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, Berlin; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro; The William and Uytendale Scott Memorial Study Collection of Works by Women of The Bryn Mawr College Art and Archaeology Collection, Bryn Mawr; Yale University, New Haven; Bennington College, Bennington;l and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase.
Born in Manhattan in 1943, Cora Cohen studied at Bennington College (B. A. 1964, M. A. 1972) with Paul Feeley and Lawrence Alloway. She has participated in symposia and lectured at various institutions including the New York Studio School, Maryland Institute College of Art, Columbia University’s School of the Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Medicine Hat College, and Bennington College.
Cohen was the recipient of a 2013 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship Award. Other honors include grants from the NEA (1987), the New York Foundation for the Arts (1989), the Gottlieb Foundation (1990, 2006), The Pollock/Krasner Foundation Award (1998), a Yaddo Residency (1982), The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Space Program Residency (2008-2009), and The Edward F. Albee Foundation Residency (2009).
A memorial will be held later this summer.
Contributed via email by a friend of Cora Cohen.