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there is no eye: Photographs by John Cohen

October 17, 2004 - January 2, 2005


Photographer/filmmaker/musician John Cohen assumes a work must exist beyond the photographer's intent. In all of his endeavors -- photographing, filmmaking, performing, teaching -- Cohen's underlying message is that it is "the exchange of songs, the sharing of wisdom, the flow of knowledge and the gift of life that are important, not the individual eye/I." (right: John Cohen, Woody Guthrie, Cooper Union, 1959, (KEEPING TIME section), Gelatin silver print, 7 13/16 x 11 13/16 inches, courtesy of the artist and Deborah Bell Photographs, NYC.)

there is no eye: Photographs by John Cohen features a collection of more than 130 modern black and white photographs that reflect Cohen's passion for art and music. The exhibition will be on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art from October 17, 2004 through January 2, 2005. The works in the exhibition are grouped into eight themes, Keeping Time, Gospel Truths, Shape of Survival, Artworks, Beat Generation, To Revive Us Again, The High Lonesome Sound, and Up and Out. there is no eye covers all areas of Cohen's work: New York City of the 1950s; the Beat Generation; American traditional music; his travels through Peru and the American South. Cohen's sensitive and moving portraits provide a virtual lesson in 1960s cultural history and includes images of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Franz Kline, Red Grooms, Philip Guston, Woodie Guthrie, Doc Watson, and a very young Bob Dylan.

Although most widely recognized for his music and his work with musicians, John Cohen began his career as a visual artist. During the early 1950s, he studied painting with Josef Albers and photography with Herbert Matter at Yale University. He moved to New York in 1957, where the Abstract Expressionist artists still held sway, Pop Art was emerging with the work of Red Grooms and Claes Oldenberg, the Beat poets were reading in local coffee houses, and the urban folk-music scene was springing to life. Cohen set about chronicling the bohemian New York art and music scenes of the late '50s and early '60s and his loft became a crossroads for musicians and artists.

Throughout the '50s and early '60s, Cohen toured extensively with the New Lost City Ramblers, a folk music string band he co-founded. As a regular writer for Sing Out Magazine, Cohen was central to the emergence of the urban folk revival of the 1960s. The title of the exhibition was drawn from the liner notes for Bob Dylan's seminal album, Highway 61 revisited (1965). Also during the late 1950s, Cohen took the first of many trips to Peru, where he photographed Indian weavers at work and developed a deep appreciation for Andean music.

John Cohen was a professor of photography for many years at Purchase College, SUNY. He has also taught film, sociology, graphic design, drawing, music, anthropology, photography and the history of photography at Cooper Union School of Architecture, NY, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, and Yale University School of Architecture, New Haven, CT.

Cohen's work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Yale University Art Museum; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; and the Nacional Museo de Arte in Lima, Peru.

On Sunday, October 24 at 2:00 p.m. in the Neuberger Museum, John Cohen will introduce the first film he made, The High Lonesome Sound, which runs for 30 minutes. This classic film evocatively illustrates how music and religion help Appalachian miners and farmers maintain their dignity and traditions in the face of change and hardship. After the film, Cohen will conduct a gallery talk through the exhibition.

there is no eye: Photographs by John Cohen is organized and circulated by The Photographic Resource Center at Boston University in cooperation with John P. Jacob, an independent curator. A powerHouse Books monograph with an introduction by arts writer Greil Marcus as well as a Smithsonian Folkways CD featuring the music by musicians pictured in the exhibition are available for purchase in the Neuberger Museum Store.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.