2011 Notes

Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 25
Photo: “Serving Coffee” or “Sycophant” by Alex Cohen

If a title card is available next to a painting I have a hard time not looking at it.  Even before I’ve fully taken in the image, I look at the title its creator.  I’ve tried to break this habit, but it persists.  It feels somehow disrespectful to look at those words because words and paintings are always a bit incongruous and a painting should be privileged over its title.  I’d like to think that a painting shouldn’t need an explanation.   But words have their own attraction and subversively insert their place next to a painting.  Despite my conflict with titles, I am part of the problem as a namer of paintings. Read more…


Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 22
“Banana Peel”
Photo: Unfinished painting, “Interruption” by Alex Co

My father, who is a physician, has never treated anyone or heard of anyone who has injured themselves slipping on a banana peel.  I myself have not been imperiled by a banana peel, nor do I know anyone who has suffered such a mishap. Yet the banana peel has earned a peculiar reputation for liability.
The interior of the peel is the soft moist interface with the fruit, while the exterior is leathery and protects the fruit from the outside world. When a banana peel rots, Read more…


Recently Sue Roseman had the difficult task of contacting the over 300 artists she represents to tell them that after 18 years of business Riverbank Arts Gallery is closing.  I am among those artists and share with them a collective grief for this loss.  More than a loss of an exhibition venue, it is a loss to the art community of Bucks and Hunterdon counties.  Though the gallery was able to keep its head above the rising waters of the Delaware and the lousy economy, it lost out when its lease for the space was not renewed under new ownership.    Read more…


This Christmas sadly marked a years passing since singer songwriter, Vic Chesnutt took his own life.  I wrote a reaction to his death in an essay last January and have since wanted to write with more specificity about his music.  To review his song Styrofoam from the 2003 record “Silver Lake” could serve to convey his entire musical legacy.  I’d just as soon keep the review small, about a singular creation, but Vic’s songs have a way exploding humble private musings into big deals.   Read more…


Investigations In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 23
“The Greatest Film Never Made”
Photo: Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”

Holding the new hardcover edition of Alison Castle’s “Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made”, one can’t escape the weight of the subject at hand.  The ten pound, 1112 page, 14x9x3 inch book makes this ghost of an unrealized endeavor tangible with sheer heft.  This book is, after all, an endeavor about an endeavor about an endeavor.  Castle took eight years among the infamous Kubrick archives to create a book that follows the obsessive and tactical style of the infamous director’s fourteen year crusade to make a film about one of history’s most heralded tactician who ruled the French for ten years. Read more…


Investigation s In Art: Alex Cohen
Essay # 26
“Through the Birds’ Window.”
Photo: “The Builders” by Stanley Spencer

Last fall a friend invited me out to Chester County to assist in a bird netting operation at Willistown Conservation Trust.  Specifically we would be netting Saw-Whet owls as they migrated through the Pennsylvania skies at night.  This was not done for sport but rather to band the birds and monitor their movements.  Read more…


My friend Jesse works in a neuroscience research lab at the University of Pennsylvania.  He and his lab mates explore traits of neuron de and regeneration in Zebrafish.  Their lab is a place where big questions are answered on a very small scale, an institution handling the exquisite delicacy of biology.  Looking at that delicacy takes a lot of arduous and repetitive labor.  Jesse spends his days coaxing bacteria to grow strands of DNA, which are then separated and implanted in the Zebrafish.  Read more…


During a good summer storm, if I’m lucky, a heavy dose of lightning will steal away the house electricity. As an interruption to an activity that was relying on that electricity, this is a nuisance.  But my first sensation in a suddenly darkened house is not a reaction to the absence of light or the cessation of electronics but towards the delicious quiet.  Even though the sounds of the storm will carry on outside there is a revelation of how noisy the house was before the surge.  Read more…