Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors

Portrait of the Artist at Work (The Grid), 1976. Courtesy of Sorel Cohen.

Sorel Cohen, An Extended and Continuous Metaphor, No. 19, 1986 / 2021, ink jet prints. Courtesy of the artist.

Sorel Cohen, After Bacon/Muybridge (detail), 1979 / 2019, 9 chromogenic prints. National Gallery of Canada.

Sorel Cohen, The Camera Can Obliterate the Reality It Records (detail), 1978 / 2016, jet. ink print. National Gallery of Canada.

Sorel Cohen, Houseworks, video still, 1977 / 2016, silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the artist.

Sorel Cohen, Le Rite Matinal (detail), 1977 / 2016, jet ink print. National Gallery of Canada.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX/National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX/National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX/National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX/National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen: Conceptual Metaphors, VOX, from November 18, 2021 to February 19, 2022.

Credit: Michel Brunelle/VOX.
2021.11.18 - 2022.02.19

Sorel Cohen

Curators
Marie J. Jean and Claudine Roger

Starting November 18, 2021

This exhibition is presented with the kind collaboration of the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Gallery of Canada.

MARIE J. JEAN AND CLAUDINE ROGER

It is to the impossible, the incomplete, that curators should look
in the hopes of unearthing some small meaningful shard,
a new perspective from which to look back.
—Tina Kukielski

 

Sorel Cohen made her mark on the Montréal art scene beginning in the 1970s with her feminist and conceptual approach to photography. That fact strikes us as obvious, but also as a fragmentary and admittedly unfinished version of the accounts conveyed to us by art history thus far. By conducting an in-depth study of the artist’s practice and her archives, we have traced the origins of the stances she has taken up in her photographic work.

It was “Grid”, a series of sculpture pieces that, because of its critical sweep, immediately led us to engage in a rereading of Cohen’s œuvre. And with good reason: as its title indicates, the series reprised the traditional reference structure of the grid. But what those sculptures did, primarily, was dismantle that emblematic structure integral to the Modernist ambitions of artists ranging from Piet Mondrian to Guido Molinari to Sol LeWitt, and in the process Cohen underscored the patriarchy’s dominance of women and of herself.

The methodology devised by Cohen would prove cathartic in more than one respect: she reworked certain elements specific to Modernism by means of photography and revisited the representation of women in the history of post-Renaissance painting. In so doing, she strove to find references to concealed traumas so as to bring down the barriers that kept women in the sway of the patriarchy. The artist succeeded—not without humour, incidentally—in assailing art history with critical and aesthetic blows that had a liberating function.

Biography

Sorel Cohen

Sorel Cohen lives and works in Montreal. A graduate from McGill and Concordia universities, she has been a major figure on the Canadian photography scene for over twenty years…

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Publication

The exhibition will be accompanied by a forthcoming monographic publication.

Reading List

Deepen your thinking about this exhibition with these suggested readings:

Féral, Josette, “De la performance à la performativité”, Communications, vol. 92, n1, 2013, pp. 205–218. Online

Graham, Robert, “Veiled Relations: The Fabric of Sorel Cohen’s Work”, in Sorel Cohen… et les ateliers de femmes (où se jouent les regards), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 1986, pp. 27–31. Online

Krauss, Rosalind. “Grids.” October, vol. 9, 1979, pp. 51–64. Online

Molesworth, Helen, “House Work and Art Work.” October, vol. 92, 2000, pp. 71–97. Online

Nemiroff, Diana, “Performances for the Camera: Montreal and Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s”, in France Choinière and Michèle Thériault (ed.), Point and Shoot: Performance and Photography, Dazibao, 2005, pp. 37–59. Online

Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. “Representing Women: The Politics of Self-Representation”, in Diane Neumaier (ed.). Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies, Temple University Press, 1998, pp. 296–310.