VOX — Centre de l’image contemporaine

View of the exhibition Sorel Cohen : Conceptual Metaphor, 2021. Photo : Michel Brunelle.

Sorel Cohen:
Conceptual Metaphors

2021.11.18 - 2022.02.19


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.

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