Jeffery Cohen is a professional painter and sculptor, pursuing two main projects in watercolor and collage. He brings a highly unique approach to watercolor painting, using a pointillism technique rather than large swaths of translucent layers, treating watercolor somewhat similarly to oil paint. Doing so grants him additional control over the specificity of colors and values. The pointillism and attention to color and light echo the characteristics of Neo-Impressionism, especially the artists Seurat and Signac.
On the other hand, Cohen’s collage works explore themes of identity, persona, and publicity. He forms portraits of celebrities by adhering magazine snippets to cardboard, then adding collaged sunglasses. The celebrities all face the viewer directly. However, by obscuring their gaze, the portraits acquire a slight air of mystery or deception. The connection typically felt from having the portrait gaze directly at the viewer is interrupted. The familiarity of the subject’s face pulls the viewer in, then the glasses push the viewer out, over and over, creating layered tiers of recognition.
I am continually searching for new ways, in both material and subject matter, to express myself.
I am currently working on a series of mixed media pieces–collages created with magazine fragments on cardboard, depicting famous people wearing sun glasses that, in some way, are a departure from their well known personas. This is intended to add a certain ambiguity that presents a deeper dimension to these well known faces. Eyes are expressive. The Etruscans believed the eyes were the windows into the soul. Eyes can convey a multitude of moods, feelings and intent. By masking the eyes behind sunglasses, the viewer is responsible for deciding just what the person they are observing is thinking or feeling without complete assistance from the piece itself or the artist who created the piece. This allows the overall portrait to be framed in the eye of the beholder.
In watercolors, I have taken a non-traditional approach, using a pointillist style to apply paint. This gives me control of color by being able to work in layer after layer without having to actually blend the colors, but rather situate them is as close a proximity as I choose. The intention is to apply the color in dots and smears so that the eye of the viewer mixes the colors, rather than mixing the colors on a palette.
His works in watercolor are tangentially related to his collages, as both touch on the idea of control, although in different ways. His watercolor paintings, which make use of pointillism, demonstrate a desire for visual order, for control over a notoriously tricky medium. By controlling the paint, he controls his vision of the world. His collages of celebrity portraits are wonderfully shaded and are surprisingly spacious. The use of collaged magazine clippings and the addition of sunglasses strike a nuanced balance between image and reality in a somewhat similar way to Duchamp’s 1929 painting The Treachery of Images. The effect is astonishingly appropriate for the present, as the overabundance of images is more and more overwhelming.