Critics’ Picks

Lynne Cohen, Loan Office, Louisville, KY, 1973, gelatin silver print, 30 x 34".

Lynne Cohen, Loan Office, Louisville, KY, 1973, gelatin silver print, 30 x 34".

Toronto

Lynne Cohen

Olga Korper Gallery
17 Morrow Avenue
April 20–May 30, 2020

Lynne Cohen’s online exhibition focuses on photographs the late artist took between 1973 and 2012 that capture spaces devoid of human protagonists but structured by human existence. Cohen often remarked that her images of unoccupied commercial and institutional spaces tend to provoke Foucauldian projections of anxiety and punishment, but that she identified much more with their humor, citing her attraction to Jacques Tati’s films.

Model Living Room, 1976, illustrates Tati’s levity. The furniture in Cohen’s photographs usually offers some information about the spaces, but here we see no furnishings except for a floor lamp. A fern on the parquet floor is surrounded by two Plexiglas silhouettes of people reading, suspended by chains from the ceiling. Cohen captures a simulation of domestic life that, although awkward, represents a playful example in the stale theater of model homes.

Loan Office, Louisville, KY, 1973, operates a little differently. Here, a set of armchairs flanks a matching side table holding an ashtray for four. Above hangs a sizable picture of a horse whose slender legs compositionally echo the chairs’ tapered wooden legs. The scene is certainly comical—one pictures the chain-smoking clients dominated by the unblinking animal—but read alongside the work’s title, the image is recoded, signaling the looming financial risk associated with Louisville’s Kentucky Derby. The heavy projections that Cohen identified are elicited not by the absence of people but through the presence of such details.