SAB Series: Lynne Cohen: Between Something and Nothing Exhibition Review

Authored by: WAG Staff on May 21, 2014

Lynne Cohen, Spa, 1999, dye coupler print, 80.6 x 102 cm sight; integral frame: 110.9 x 131.5 x 2.8 cm.

In my experience, many people often wonder why certain photographs are displayed. What is so special about this work that allows it to be placed in an art gallery? Lynne Cohen’s photographs are technically sound and follow all the rules of what a good picture should look like. But I don’t think that’s the defining reason that makes Cohen’s work so interesting. The exhibition Between Something and Nothing offers a different perspective on qualities of day-to-day life. In her pictures, the scenes that are set are normal everyday places such as offices, pools, classrooms or gyms but give them a different, almost a dark and eerie feeling to them. Her pictures never show any people, but only mere suggestions of the human body like dummies or silhouettes.

Personally, I enjoy seeing photographs in galleries. To me, it offers a more in depth experience than just simply looking in a book or on a computer. Looking at large pictures is interesting and strange. It gives the viewer an opportunity to look at the photographs with more care, and give the feeling as if you were actually in that photograph. Galleries give a good atmosphere to do so. Big photographs feel inviting and allow you to explore your imagination.

Most of Lynne Cohen’s work has a sense of eeriness. Relating to Hall (1999), Cohen suggests that “perhaps labs that smell of formaldehyde are more threatening than living rooms that smell of baby powder and air freshener. But both can be asphyxiating." As with many of her photographs, she plays with the idea of finding something more in the normality of everyday life. A piece I particularly enjoyed was Hat Trees (1978). I found that this photograph was interesting and thought provoking. Not only does hanging hats on trees seem like an excellent system, but I also wonder what kind of setting this photograph was taken in? The mirror on the wall gives a sense of curiosity and wonder. The mirror shows that the room is not just a set up for a photograph, but it looks like a house. In the mirror you can see a door with light shining through. What is beyond the door? Is there more to this simple setting?

I was glad to see that the WAG had decided to put up a photography exhibit and was immediately interested. Between Something and Nothing was an enthralling experience, people who may not have a huge interest in photography can take a chance to look through Lynne Cohen’s perspective on life and experience for themselves her style of photography.

Maxine Arbez Cheung

This post is part of our ongoing WAG Student Art Board blog series. The Student Art Board (SAB) is a select group of high school students that are involved with the WAG. This blog series is intended to offer a teenager's perspective on the art currently on display at the WAG

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