Lynne Cohen Severance
American-Canadian photographer Lynne Cohen (1944–2014) is known for her striking photographs of mysteriously mundane domestic and institutional interiors characterized by odd symmetries, repetitions, and absurd disjunctions of scale. Exposing the peculiar nature of empty spaces long before a global pandemic made such scenes commonplace, the selection of photographs presented in Severance feel eerily close to home decades after they were created.
Trained as a sculptor and printmaker when Pop Art and Minimalism dominated the art world, Cohen used her work to focus on the way things appear and function in our lives. She had a long-standing interest in the artificial, highlighting the strangeness and contradictions coursing through the everyday. Her pointed interest in seemingly banal subject matter and utilitarian or quotidian locations—including living rooms, beauty salons, men’s clubs, retirement homes, banquet halls, laboratories, lobbies, classrooms, offices, showrooms, shooting ranges, factories, spas, and military installations—resulted in images that feel more akin to theatre sets than occupied spaces. “I feel,” she once observed, “that the world can’t be like it is. It seems full of finished works of art.”
Cohen herself has been gone for nearly a decade, and yet the strangeness of her scenes is more relevant than ever. Abandoned boardrooms, lunchrooms, cubicles presided over by thirsty ferns, and corporate ant hills devoid of workers are what define corporate environments amidst a global pandemic. Emerging from their caves and heading back into the fluorescent lighting of the workplace has been a confusing and foreign process in the contemporary workforce. We are greeted by Cohen’s alien environments, bizarre after years of blazers-over-boxers on Zoom. We once built these places for ourselves, on purpose. Who were we then? Will we ever recognize those people again? We search each of Cohen’s images for a spinning chair, a steaming cup of coffee—for proof of life.
Presented by Olga Korper Gallery
Lynne Cohen (b. 1944 Racine, Wisconsin – 2014 Montreal, Quebec) is known for her photographs of domestic and institutional interior spaces. A recipient of numerous awards of merit, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts and Media Arts (Canada) in 2005, and the inaugural Scotiabank Photography Award in 2011, this exhibition runs in conjunction with the opening of Cohen’s work at the Pompidou, Paris.