Critics’ Picks

Joseph Cohen, Proposition 135, 2009, reclaimed latex, enamel, stain, acrylic and enamel on pine, 23 x 20 x 2 1/2".


Joseph Cohen

Wade Wilson Art | Houston
4411 Montrose Blvd.
January 8 - February 13

Prescriptive art can often unintentionally provoke apathy in the viewer—the adherence to a “rule-based” agenda may come across as shallow, if not didactic, pointing to self-involved interests that say little of a larger context. This is thankfully not the case in Joseph Cohen’s solo exhibition “Forging the Path of the Concrete.” His paintings are created solely from reclaimed, repurposed materials, like defective, off-color batches of paint mismixed at Home Depot, which are poured and layered onto found surfaces, suggesting oddly construed confectionery.

The fact that Cohen strictly limits his palette in such a manner fulfills both an eco-based agenda and a conservative approach to materials in general—waste not, want not. The results are oddly multifarious in their range and epic in scope. Yet the artist reveals enough of his process to come off as humble. Various stalactite-like formations give evidence of Cohen’s patient layering technique, adding a molten quality to the surface of each work. It is as though the paintings grew into the forms presented in the show, rather than having been forced into the traditional rectangle format. Although Cohen often blankets much of the final imagery in a layer of thick white, strategically exposed colorful stripes belie the serious intent behind the methodology—and that’s a good thing.