Joseph Cohen

[1982 - ] View All Work

The “Propositions” that I offer are philosophical inquiries into both the nature of painting and human perception.  The systematic development of titling my works was partly influenced from my studies of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s application of the Geometrical Method of philosophy in which propositions and axioms are used to present philosophical truth.  Partially aligned with the Concrete Painting Movement, I employ the tenets that state a painting should be autonomous, and that a pictorial element has no other significance than “itself” and therefore the picture has no other significance than “itself.”  Concrete paintings do not attempt to represent nor abstract from anything in this world, and are precisely paintings about paint’s ability to exist as color and physical matter.  Mining the rich history of painting, I scrutinize every characteristic and property of paint.

Earlier “Propositions” predominantly dealt with the physical nature of the medium.  Reclaimed materials were employed as a means of stressing the objective nature of the art object.  Within this context, a “found palette” was embraced to further draw emphasis towards the material’s physical characteristics.  This in turn affords the viewer the opportunity to experience the work of art within both the context of painting as well as sculpture.

The most recent “Propositions” incorporate 45 degree sides that accentuate the works’ departure from the wall.  Hundreds of layers of personally made paint are brushed on one atop another creating surfaces that shift chromatically when engaged by the viewer.  The incorporation of interference pigments, gold, platinum, silver, diamond dust, and other precious materials articulate the shifted role of color in these latest “Propositions.” Paint continues to be used as both a sensual viscous matter that can flow, drip, and carry a brushstroke’s gesture, yet it is also used mechanically, geometrically, and at times governed by the laws of gravity. The concepts of both time and change are connected to the “aboutness” of the artworks.  The act of objectification is only achieved through motion and the viewer shifting perspectives, thus it is imperative to view the artworks from numerous angles.

Of great importance is the act of embracing the human hand and the physical activity of painting.  I am deeply involved with the textures of a medium capable of universalizing so much lost intimacy.  I am enthralled by the myriad conversations that can be created with the painterly act of sedimentation and the topography that results as a historical record. My process is akin to an odyssey, expounding on an incessant engagement with paint, support, and the production of new surfaces.  Suggesting a relationship to sculpture, the work affords the viewer numerous perspectives that, if examined, develop one’s initial perception.  The operative nature of our fast paced society brings about a barrage of visual imagery that competes for our attention and in turn produces a numbing effect.  My work calls for a slowing down, thus allowing a respite in which one may contemplate.