Fountain House Gallery, New York, NY
Martin Cohen incorporates mixed media, including photographic cut-outs and found objects, into his abstract expressionist oil paintings and paper pieces, to introduce a textural quality and to explore elements of popular culture. Having studied with renowned Color Field Painter and Lyrical Abstractionist artist Sam Gilliam, Cohen’s early works–focused on New York City, dreamscapes, and architecture–develop what he calls “interval spaces” where the picture plane is compartmentalized into framing elements, textural areas, and flat areas.
This type of visual organization is also evident his later satirical photomontages. For these heavily populated “heavens” and “hells,” the artist combines the heads of self-important political figures and celebrities with the bodies of other famous personalities, gargoyles, or pornstars “so I can make fun of people who take themselves too seriously,” he quips. Cohen attributes his unconventional artistic approach to his bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, having stated, “I have always been a mood-oriented artist. My illness has informed my work and made me more willing to experiment. It has also been therapeutic because it allows me to express my suffering artistically.”
Cohen has had one-man shows in New York at Fountain House Gallery, Vivian Horan Fine Art, Cooper Union, and Gallery New World Stages. His pieces were featured in a group exhibitions at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan and the Education and Research Center of The Museum of Modern Art. He is a 2012 winner of the prestigious Wynn Newhouse Awards, a program that provides grants to artists of excellence who happen to have disabilities.