New York–based painter Cora Cohen has died at the age of seventy-nine. Born in New York City in 1943, Cohen earned BA and MA degrees at Bennington College in Vermont, where her teachers included the painter Paul Feeley and the critic and curator Lawrence Alloway. Starting with an exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, in 1974 at the invitation of James Harithas, Cohen had an extensive exhibition history, yet she remained—as Barry Schwabsky remarked in arecent reviewof an exhibition of Cohen’s work of the 1980s—“one of the most underrated painters in New York.” For all that, she had passionate admirers. Anne M. Wagner, for instance,cited Cohen(along with Charline von Heyl) as one of the signal successors of Helen Frankenthaler as “’artists of paint’ as well as abstractionists” who “‘discover’ each painting as it is being made. In their work the antimechanical is a resolved position, an approach to painting, and the results are crucial to the future of abstraction, the hereafter to come.”RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD Cohen’s persistent concern was with how abstract painting could connect to the lived world; in that sense, she was trying to work out a position outside formalism.
Perhaps this is why she was drawn to the example of Joan Mitchell, with whom she spent time in Vétheuil, France. Of “the consideration of a painting as an autonomous object, often outside of any social system,”Cohen toldher fellow painter Sam Jablon, “I refute this obliquely and explicitly.” Sometimes this refutation could entail the use of image-fragments such as views of the body’s interior on exposed X-ray film on which she would paint, but more often Cohen’s questioning of art’s self-enclosure took obliquer forms. Her paintings confronted order with disorder, structure with formlessness, artistic will (as in the commanding gesture beloved of the Abstract Expressionists) with ungovernable flow and entropy. Thanks to the unpredictable placement of substances on her works’ surfaces, some of her paintings have the disconcerting property of being impossible to fix in memory, and therefore one may wonders if, like people, they’ve changed since last seen. Following her 1974 show at the Everson, Cohen exhibited regularly at New York galleries, among them Max Hutchinson, Wolff, Holly Solomon, A/C Project Room, and Jason McCoy, and her museum shows included solo outings at the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, and Museum Insel Hombroich, Neuss, Germany. Cohen’s recent solo exhibitions include ones at the New York Studio School Gallery in 2016 and Morgan Presents, also in New York, in 2022..