“I don’t think anyone really decides to be an artist. It’s a wiring that you either confirm or deny.” – Charles Cohen

Imagista previews a few selections from Charles Cohen’s exhibition, The Way It Was. Charles’s work explores the tension between observation and participation, between the daily experience and the existential. In the following Q&A Charles shares with Imagista insights into his thought process and how this exhibition came to be.


Why did you decide to title your show The Way It Was ?

The title takes its name from a recent stop-motion animation video. To make this video, I picked up an object and attempted to replace it the same exact location 108 times. The frames of the video are the individual attempts. The burden of perfection and a longing for the way things were are symptoms of being caught between participation and observation, or between knowing and feeling. This is the quality of experience that inspired the show and has been a theme in my work as long as I can remember.

How many pieces are in this show? 

There are 8 pieces in the show: 3 videos and 5 photographs, one of which is a series of 15 images. Some pieces encourage a state for the viewer that is betwixt participation and observation and others are about being ‘caught’ in a nether state. In all cases I find stability in and access through formal relationships. Beauty is my safety net for being.

How did this particular show come into fruition? 

My close friend Julie Mehretu took note of my work as a whole and encouraged the show as an insight into a particularly unique way of making sense of the world. She noticed that the choices of subject matter are so diverse and the concept so singular that a survey-like show would not only be comprehensive but also inform the individual works with grander scope and impact.

How long have you been an artist and how has your worked changed or evolved over the years? 

I don’t think anyone really decides to be an artist. It’s a wiring that you either confirm or deny. It’s been at least 25 years since I could no longer deny the lens with which I encounter everything. A more explicit shift toward my experience in general as a subject rather than taming the work into palatable buckets of a particular topic has come about over the last 10 years. This show represents the first opportunity to exhibit these works along side each other.

The Way It Was runs at Studio 1240 (601 West 26th Street, Suite 1240) from June 9 through July 9, 2015. The opening reception is Tuesday July 9, 2015 from 6pm-8pm and is open to the public.


Artist: Charles Cohen

Artist: Julie Mehretu

Introduction: Andrea Raymer

Interview: Michael Williams