Sala Rekalde, Bilbao
Alameda de Recalde, 30
artist / participant
Sala Rekalde holds the exhibition of the photographer Lynne Cohen (Racine, Wisconsin, 1944 - Montreal, 2014) organized by Fundación MAPFRE. Offering 78 works, this show tells the story of the evolution of the singular eye of Lynne Cohen and offers viewers an unbeatable chance to visit the spaces she photographed, imagining the experiences and happenings of the invisible characters who people them.
Lynne Cohen spent almost half a century working at the forefront of photographic practice. In her work, the spectator can explore the interiors of the places that the artist came across during her extensive career, beginning with intimate spaces –such as her neighbours’ living rooms–, then moving on to dance halls, private clubs, classrooms and spas, and finally spaces with restricted access, taking in military installations, laboratories and shooting ranges. In none of them does Cohen photograph people: the artist argued that she wouldn’t know where to situate them. Nevertheless, we see clear signs of human presence, in the perfect symmetry of the way things are placed, for instance.
The absence of people and her initial reticence about dating and titling works point us to the importance that the artist gave to not conditioning the story that the viewer might create. The ambiguity of the places under study also contributes to this neutrality. Rooms that resemble museums, waiting rooms that appear to be installations, spas reminiscent of morgues or hospitals, simulators like toys, and interiors that call up exteriors, fashion an atmosphere of uncertainty, a palpable unease, a threat; as if something were about to happen. And maybe already has. Cohen thereby makes the ordinary absurd, almost unreal. Then the spaces, which might not be very familiar to us, become strange and unknown, and allow Cohen to craft a discourse that handles subjects of deep relevance, such as camouflage, deception, mimesis and control.
Since the first stages, all of Cohen’s work has pursued a fundamental aim: to convey reality, without turning one’s back on society, and to breakout of the traditional isolation of the artist in his study, showing a collective construction, various ways of life, without value judgements. In her searches, chance intervenes actively, for most of the time she does not know what she will discover concealed behind the doors. The final images are always the product of a fortuitous encounter, of something that strikes or perturbs her.
LYNNE COHEN began her artistic career at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 70s. Strangely enough her initial works were sculptures and engravings. Influenced by film, pop art and the social movements of the 60s in the United States, the artist saw in photography the most effective method for capturing the social realities of a changing world. Her first images were in a smaller format than those of today, and in black and white, and the spaces she portrayed were intimate and warmer. As the years went by Cohen gradually refined her visual take, leaving behind her neighbours’ lounges and penetrating spaces restricted to the general public. She herself used to say that she never knew what she would come across in any of her expeditions, and that she at no point ever altered the space.
In the mid-1980s, she increased the size of her works and the frame kicked in as another element in their composition. Formica, combined with a broad range of colours and textures, was used by the artist to highlight key features of what was portrayed. The turn toward large format –in the 80s– and colour –which appears at the end of the 90s– enabled the artist to show even more details, inviting viewers to «enter» the scene, to be part of it, touching the materials and textures and noticing the smells that, according to the artist, issued from the places she photographed.