The Photographs of Lynne Cohen
15 June – 25 August 2002
in Gairloch Gardens and Centennial Square
This exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, in collaboration with the Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne; circulated by the National Gallery of Canada.
This major exhibition is the first comprehensive examination of Lynne Cohen's photographic work, from the mid-1970's to her most recent production. Concerned with revealing the concealed narratives of interior spaces, Cohen's photographs are fascinating, complex windows on the lifestyles of the modern North American world. Employing a highly formal production style, with the familiar flatness and symmetry used in annual reports and postcards, Cohen presents reserved images that offer compelling social commentary. Cohen's photographs from the 70's and 80's, of banquet halls, living rooms and classrooms, are both a kitschy delight and a revelation of cultural artifice. In her more recent work of spas that resemble laboratories and empty corporate spaces, there is a profound sense of alienation, isolation and deception. Many of the images have an aura of generic perfection, although, astonishingly, none of the interiors featured in her photographs are altered or staged. Rather, Cohen reconfigures familiar terrain in the form of a work of art, and in so doing makes that terrain unfamiliar, even alien.
Cohen has stated that her photographs are "pictures permeated with sadness and humour" and that she would like them to "reveal a struggle between reality and illusion, between the authentic and the simulated." Her photographs emphasize the communication of knowledge and the reflection of the self inherent in the interiors we create and inhabit. These interiors allow us to see how our hopes and dreams are incorporated into our environments, but simultaneously, how our environments contradict our desires by shaping the way in which we live.
The monograph No Man's Land: The Photographs of Lynne Cohen, written by Ann Thomas and published by the National Gallery of Canada, will be available at Oakville Galleries.
The exhibition No Man's Land: The Photographs of Lynne Cohen is generously sponsored by Lexus of Oakville.