September 25 to October 20, 1991
Since the early 1970s, Lynne Cohen has been photographically exploring the places and objects of everyday life. At first, she concentrated on living rooms, beauty salons, reception rooms and retirement homes. With an 8” x 10” view camera, the objects that fill these deserted places are endowed with heightened detail and presence. The eye glides across the smooth cold textures imposed by its materials. Without a trace of aestheticism to soothe the senses, each element seems like the repetition of a unique model. An even light bathes each of these calculated and desperately functional elements typical of the material culture of the end of the 20th century.
A certain gap exists between the objects and the presentations of objects that abound in these anonymous spaces. Omnipresent casts and drawings of parts of the human body, flight simulators, diagrams, city maps, trompe l’oiel landscapes, photographic portraits and stuffed animals stand as reminders of human creation. Nature and civilization, reality and image, are blended together. Carefully fostered illusions and crude dissonances first stir doubt then bring disenchantment.
In her more recent work, Cohen no longer restricts herself to simply observing the modern world with an ironic eye. Rather she enters the territory of knowledge and power, the realm of Big Brother. With clinical precision, she peers into premises of all kinds of educational institutions: observational rooms, laboratories, shooting galleries, police academies. Cohen takes her camera into these inner sanctuaries of collective life and selects angles that allow her to emphasize certain elements of composition. Instead of making contact prints, she produces 16” x 20” or 20” x 24” enlargements. These compelling images are thus stripped of their intimate, precious character. Magnified, the smallest detail acquires an unsettling aura. Even more troubling is the fact that these places, with their mysterious, ambiguous contents, are neither identified, nor dated. All we are provided with is a brief category, an archetype devoid of all individuality.
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