New York

Mark Cohen

Marlborough | Midtown

In several instances, photographers in “The New Color” also had one-man shows at galleries. Mark Cohen’s show didn’t duplicate any imagery at ICP, though, because everything in it was black and white. Cohen’s photographs are like random violence. They’re seemingly unprovoked, unexpected assaults on their subjects. Using a flash and working in so close that he seldom gets a whole figure in the frame, Cohen produces pictures that look almost jagged. They look menacingly incomplete, like a broken bottle. Yet in spite of their fragmentation, the pictures are all of a piece. His subjects are usually kids who give the impression that they can take it, that they can give as good as they get. They look as if they go through life half-expecting a punch-up, though maybe not at this particular moment. Cohen has lived all his life in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a tough working-class town in the mining region. It’s the sort of place that doesn’t offer any esthetic consolation for life (I’ve been there). If an esthetic is what you want, you’ve got to make it for yourself. That’s just what Cohen has done.

I like the hard-nosed, aggressive, edgy, raw, risky quality of Cohen’s work. With him, art has to be willing to take its chances in a brawl. He knows that a photograph ain’t art, anyhow, just an image, which is something cruder and more important.

Colin L. Westerbeck, Jr.