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plus an audio
interview with the
Walking in to Jeff Cowen's solo exhibition at the "seine 51" gallery in Paris, you experience an artist who is in mastery of his work on many levels. The dramatically shifting scale, the rich tones of the printing, the blunt and stunning subject matter, the artful arrangement of groupings of photographs, the sheer intensity and volume of work — it is an exciting discovery. A lot of the images are big, almost larger than life. The prints are beautiful, but distressed. Tone seeps beyond the rough edges of the frame, the paper is folded, ripped, taped back together. Images are torn apart, reconstructed with other images, taped together, photographed and printed again. They are arranged artfully, but simply, tacked to the walls without frames. Seductive, threatening nudes look out of the photos directly into your eyes. There are moments of melancholy, horror, tenderness, beauty, perversion, intellectual meditation.
"There is nothing casual about a photograph for me," says Cowen. "It is a balance. It must seem effortless and have a fabulous simplicity about it and at the same time it must have this mysterious complexity.
"The darkroom is a place where I paint and collage, where I can bring out the interior world of the image... There is something special to me about a traditional silver print. It is hand made, not from a computer, not ones and zeros; it has a vitality of its own. I can feel the hand of the photographer in it. No print can ever be the same.."
Cowen worked in New York as an assistant to Larry Clark and Ralph Gibson while honing his own artistic practice in the 1980's and 90's. He currently lives in Paris.
In a 5-minute audio interview for Lens Culture, Cowen talks about his process. (The interview at an outdoor cafe in Paris actually ranged over one hour of very lively discussion, interrupted often by noisy patrons, passing cars and motorbikes. This is a distillation of Cowen's talk about the photos in his exhibition). A beautiful 128-page monograph is currently available in France, and will be released in the U.S. in early 2005.
© Copyright 1987-2004 Jeff Cowen
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